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9/11 should never fade from Americans’ memories

 By Dan Bledsoe

I will never forget the events of 9/11. Ever.

Yes, we all watched on TV as events unfolded, but for me it was a little bit different.

I was heading to work in Trenton, New Jersey, on that cool, clear Tuesday morning when I heard on the radio the initial report that a “small” plane had hit the North Tower at about 8:46 a.m.

I was working as a public information officer for the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. I raced inside the office to see everyone huddled around and watching the images that people saw around the world.

It became apparent, even before the South Tower was struck that this was not a “small” plane. I went into my office and started to make calls, only to realize that all the landline and cell phones were dead.

It seemed like it was only a minute (17 minutes, actually) before the South Tower was also hit by what was already confirmed — terrorists.

At that point, the women in the office were only thinking of their children and family. It was then that I went to the treasurer and told him that some people wanted to leave. He told me I could leave if I wanted. I made it clear that it was the women in the office that wanted to go home.

After getting permission from him, I sent everybody home that wanted to go home. (I was actually chastised after that by a deputy treasurer who wanted to know who authorized that. I told her to take it up with the treasurer.)

By this time, everyone is watching the smoldering towers when the South Tower started collapsing. That was at about 9:59 a.m. and it lasted about 10 seconds. And at about 10:28, the North Tower fell.

About two days later, there was a call to arms to help answer a myriad of questions to local, regional, state, national and international media interests for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that just lost their Twin Towers.

I told them I would be there. So, five days after 9/11, a Sunday, I am driving across the Bayonne Bridge and I get my first look at the Statue of Liberty as smoke wafts across the sky.

That smoke and those fires would continue to burn for months.

I lived out of a hotel room right across from where the arduous efforts of removing debris would go on for days and weeks and months and years.

It would be about 225 days before I would go to the World Trade Center site. If anything was found even remotely resembling a body part, all work came to a complete halt. The silence was deafening.

Eventually, I would spend a lot of time at the site. (I do not use the GZ phrase.) A lot of politicians and out-of-state dignitaries wanted to go into “The Pit.”

I had issues with that at first, but I overcame it, sort of.

During one tour, I had a dignitary and engineer talking about things way over my head so I wandered off a bit. I came across the remnants of an underground bar. There was a newspaper rack, obviously dated 9/11.

Chills like no tomorrow went through me.

That was a really rough time in my life. I take solace in the letters of recommendation for my efforts in a time of crisis to aid the PAN/NY. I get a bit defensive (OK, a lot) whenever people bring up conspiracy theories about 9/11.)

There is nothing that can convince me that this was a conspiracy.

If there is any good news 14 years after 9/11 it would have to be today’s opening of the Flight 93 National Memorial visitor’s center in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Displays, artifacts, pictures of the passengers and crew and the sounds of loved ones lost via messages left on answering machines and cell phones.

By the time passengers on Flight 93 became aware of the fate of the other three planes, they did several things. They called loved ones. They discussed a strategy how to storm the cockpit. And they used the GTE airphones to update authorities on what was going on.

It would be Todd Beamer, along with Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, along with six other passengers and two flight attendants to decide what to do. Beamer said the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. The hijackers rocked the plane to throw off the passengers’ balance.

At this time, the plane was 20 minutes out from Washington, D.C. and Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered to shoot down any aircraft.

Beamer and company were ready to charge the pilot’s cabin, right after he said those infamous words, “Let’s Roll.”

My time with the PANY/NJ was very special. I have a hard time talking about it, which is why I usually do so only once a year. Someday I will learn to find comfort in that I was in a place where God wanted me at that time.

Dan Bledsoe is a resident of Groves. He wrote this piece for The Port Arthur News three years ago.