Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pearl Harbor, JFK Assassination & 9/11

In “modern” American History three events have happened which left vivid memories of “where were you when….”  for most people living at the time.

Those events are the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy and 9/11 – the destruction of the World Trade Towers.

Pearl Harbor was attacked on Sunday December 7, 1941, well before I was born, but both my Mom & Dad remembered it.

Mom & Dad were both 12 at the time.  It was about 1:00 o’clock pm in the eastern US where both Mom & Dad were, when the attack occurred.

Dad was at the farm of a family friend between Gibson & Kellenburger roads in Phoneton, Ohio.  He and the son of the family who owned the farm had been riding horses that morning.  They’d put the horses away and were walking back towards the house when the boy’s Father came out and told them.  Sometime since then the farm became a nine-hole par-3 golf course (now defunct) called Willow Pond.  So the area has changed a lot, but the buildings were still there in late 2009.  Dad used to comment that, “Right there at the corner of that barn was where I heard about Pearl Harbor.”

Mom was at home at 151 Clark Avenue in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  After Mass they came home and she and Aunt Eileen were playing.  Daddy Con went down to the local Pub for an ale and talk.  He wasn’t gone long when he came back and told them about the attack.

It was on Friday November 22, 1963 at about 1:30 o’clock pm (in Ohio where I was) when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  I was in the 8th grade in Sister Stella’s class at St. Christopher’s School when we heard the phone ring.  In addition to being our classroom teacher, Sister Stella was also the Principal.  Since there was usually no one in the Principal's Office, Dick Meyers, who sat by the door, was assigned to go answer the phone when it rang (which wasn’t often).

We were in Art Class at the time and we were creating mosaics by cutting up colored construction paper into “confetti” and then pasting them onto a background to form an image.  I was attempting to create a Thanksgiving turkey (ready to be served, not strutting around the barnyard).

Dick returned from the office a few minutes later and said, “I don’t know, it was some crazy lady.  I couldn’t understand what she was saying.”

Moments later the phone rang again.  Dick trudged off to the office again.  When he returned he looked a little pale and while he briefly glanced at us sitting in the room, he directed his comments to Sister Stella saying, “This lady says the President has been shot.  I think you better talk to her.”

Sister Stella left the room.  After she found out what happened she notified the other classrooms and staff and then put the radio on over the PA.

I was a member of the “Safety Patrol” who worked as crossing guards.  When school let out at about 2:30pm I remember so many of the girls crying as they walked home.

Kennedy was sort of “our President” since he was the first (and so far only) Catholic President and of course he was also Irish, like lots of the students, so his death hit many of the children very hard.

The hijacking of passenger aircraft attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers occurred on Tuesday September 11, 2001.  In Bishop it was just before 6:00 o’clock am when the first attack occurred.

I was still a Fireman then, and that day I was the “Duty Officer” which meant that I would be responsible for managing any activities that the firefighting resources on the Inyo National Forest might be called on to perform.

At about 6:30am the phone rang.  I was already up, even though I didn’t go on duty until 8:00am.  It was your Grandma, Deborah.  She told me that there had been an accident in New York – a plane had flown into a building.

We did not have cable TV in Bishop, and there were are no broadcast stations there at that time, so I turned on the radio and also logged into the internet to find out was going on.  I wasn’t overly concerned as I knew that, sometimes, especially in bad weather, inexperienced and/or careless pilots sometimes did foolish things.

It didn’t take long listening to the radio and reading on the internet before I knew that there was much reason to be concerned.  I immediately called our Dispatch Office and they were freaked out.  The FAA had called them and wanted to know how many airliners we could park at the Bishop Airport.  The FAA was considering not letting any aircraft fly near big cities and direct them to land at smaller airfields where the were few, if any, tempting targets for the terrorists.

The Bishop Airport was built as a training base for WWII bomber crews, so the runways are long and wide, easily big enough for jet airliners.  I went to the Airport and consulted with the Airport Manager trying to determine where, how and how many aircraft the field could handle.  As you can imagine, the timeframe was very short.  Before we had made any determination the FAA canceled the request.

I then went back home for a while as we were worried about your Aunt Doris who was living in Brooklyn at the time.  She could see the towers from her apartment.  She was never in any danger.  Our cousin John Meade, a FDNY Fireman, was off-duty that day.  He did lose his Father-in-law and a Brother-in-law.

Dear Readers – thanks for visiting.  I would really appreciate it if you would please leave your own stories (if you have them) about these events in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. "I was remembering my circumstance that day on the other side of the country in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I numbly drove to work late that day...HWY. 395 North to June Lake, this amazing wide open landscape in the Eastern Sierra mountains of California with nothing and no one except beauty in sight. Typically, not so surreal, rather my back yard, and today completely peaceful, quiet, never changing like always, but on 9/11 quite surreal. I kept thinking about my friends in NYC, having been in NYC on business at least once a year for many in a row. I always said, NYC is my favorite place to visit in all the travels I've done.

    On the morning of 9/11, I cried the whole way to work wishing, praying, thinking why am I here, and all of my friends in the city are living this horrible tragedy?

    I was in NYC 6 months to the day prior to the attacks and went to the Twin Towers with my cheapy little throw away camera. Being a rebel, I decided to lay down in the plaza in between the towers and take pictures, never in a million years thinking what would be. I took pictures all over that landscape, odd perspectives of the buildings, sitting next to the bronze statues for self portraits...taking in the awesome vibe of lower Manhattan fully. I never went up though and my only regret is now I wish I had gone to the top.......

    Intentionally I went back 6 months after 9/11 to the day to show my respect, to kneel on one knee and pray for as many people as I could fit into my psyhe. I read all the tributes on the chain linked fence that surrounded the entire area and took pictures of that too. I stayed for hours paying tribute and sobbing in between, as if I knew even one person who lost their life. I did not, thankfully.

    In my living trust, I have recommended to my children that NYC is still the only place to find yourself, an odd parallel to the life we live at 8,500 feet with lots of space to roam freely. I said, if you can be happy in this 'city', you can live and be happy anywhere because diversity saves the world and it's what makes the city great. Everyone must get along, and really, everyone does. They did before 9/11. What we are seeing as acts of kindness taking care of each other after 9/11 was already in place."

    I have those pictures saved in a bunch of media (newspapers, magazines) I purchased that week.

    Suzanne Nottingham