Local community reflects on 20th anniversary of September 11

This fiberglass replica of the Statue of Liberty is on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. In the weeks and months following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, he stood outside a Manhattan fire station.


MACOMB COUNTY – Almost two decades have passed since the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.

September 11 marks the 20th anniversary of a series of events that have become central to the identities of Americans old enough to remember the day.

On that day, nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks when 19 individuals associated with the militant group Al Qaeda hijacked four planes and carried out suicide bombings against US targets. Two of the planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York; a third plane struck the Pentagon near Washington, DC; and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

To commemorate the anniversary, C&G Newspapers spoke with locals who shared their stories from this era in American history.

Staff Sgt. Drew Schumann, of the 127 Wing public affairs office at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, said September 11 was his first day at the University of New Jersey.

“I was driving on I-676 in South Jersey and remember not seeing any planes in the sky,” he said. “It was right on the flight path from Philadelphia International Airport. I thought it was scary and there were signs saying the Lincoln Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel were closed. This is never the case.

Schumann said he heard on his clock radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.

The superintendent of public schools in L’Anse Creuse, Erik Edoff, was at the time a teacher at L’Anse Creuse-Nord high school in the township of Macomb.

“I remember exactly that day,” he shared. “I don’t exactly remember the first whisper or conversation, it was obviously before smartphones and streaming. We had televisions in the classrooms, but they had live television. “

At 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower.

Edoff remembers turning on the television and seeing the towers still standing, shortly before they collapsed. The south tower collapses at 9:59 a.m., the north tower at 10:28 a.m.

“I remember it was very quiet in the classroom,” he said. “The students were watching.

Edoff remembers a few kids not paying attention to the media coverage for a second, and he and his teaching partners said, “We don’t know what’s going on right now, but it could be the event. most important of your life. until now. Your attention please.”

Chippewa Valley Schools Superintendent Ron Roberts has said September 11 is one of those life events, like when President John F. Kenndy was assassinated, that people know where they are. What marked him in the weeks following the attacks was the rapprochement of the United States.

“You think about it now with what’s going on in our society and think back then, we had an understanding of who we were as Americans,” he said. “Regardless of our differences and our way of thinking politically, we knew we were all Americans and that was the most important connection we had. “

Macomb Township Fire Chief Robert Phillips said what he remembers most of 9/11 is that the emergency responders were all ordinary men and women who got up that morning , put on their uniforms, walked to work, doing exactly what was expected of them.

“Probably a lot of them know what the outcome would be,” he said. “It didn’t confuse them, it didn’t slow them down. They did everything to save lives.

The Project Never Forget website says the New York Fire Department, or FDNY, lost 343 firefighters on September 11.

Phillips said positive public sentiment towards first responders peaked on September 11 and soon after the attacks.

On September 11, Macomb Township firefighter Joe Warne was working at a car dealership.

“One of the guys came down and said a plane hit the building, and we all said yes, it’s impossible. Then the second plane hit, and we watched it live, ”Warne said.

The Macomb Township resident said he was probably like every other American seeing what was going on.

“I was angry and wanted to attract the people who did it,” he said. “Over the years you are still angry looking at the pictures. Knowing what I now know about cancer put occupational cancer on the firefighter’s map. “

For three years now, Warne has walked 140 miles, with funds raised to benefit firefighters with cancer.

“Lots of others besides the 343 heroes who came up knowing they were going to die, lots of guys digging through the rubble ended up getting cancer from these fumes and kerosene and all these toxins,” did he declare.

Thinking back to that time in American history, Warne said September 12, 2001 was truly the iconic day.

“Everyone loved each other that day,” he said. “There were flags flying over every house and every building. “

At the time of September 11, Army Major General Darren Werner was 33 years old, a major in the Army, and stationed at Fort Hood, Texas as part of the 4th Infantry Division.

Werner, of Macomb Township, is the commanding general of the United States Army Tank and Weapons Command, Army Materiel Command. He is based at the US Army Garrison-Detroit Arsenal in Warren.

“I walked into my office that morning and there were already a few people there,” he said. “The morning news was on the radio and I remember the broadcaster talking about what was going on. How they described the first plane was an unidentified small plane that was deviating from its course. As the day went on, it went from an airplane in distress with mechanical issues to something that changed everything from then on and the world we live in today.

Werner said his division was preparing for a monthly equipment readiness review that day.

“We had a whole new sense of importance when we sat down that day,” he said. “We knew we were going to load the equipment onto a ship somewhere soon.”

On September 11, all military installations in the United States were placed under Force Protection Condition, or FPCON, Delta and limited to military personnel.

FPCON DELTA, the highest alert, describes a situation when a terrorist attack takes place or has just occurred in the immediate area. In addition, on September 11, all of the airspace in the United States was closed by order of the Federal Aviation Administration. It was the first time in history that the order was given.

“Right after the planes entered the tower, the whole country closed,” Werner said. “Fort Hood has closed its doors – no one came in or out until we found out what was going on. I know that soldiers I worked with in the past told me that they were in different places and that they had to drive across the country to return to the Pentagon.

On several occasions, Werner has traveled to foreign countries on the anniversary of 9/11 and has witnessed a recognition quite different from what we see in America.

“We are very vigilant in the days surrounding 9/11 because there is a lot of emotion in what they did when they attacked our country,” Werner said. “Their reasoning has to do with their emotions and with the birthday, there are countries in the world that may not have the same ideals, which in some cases celebrate the attacks on the United States. have been to some countries where this has been done. ”