Life turned inside out for Ketchikan and the world early Tuesday morning. We watched a series of terrorist attacks on the United States.
First, a hijacked airliner flew into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. TV network cameras focused on the Trade Center and taped a second hijacked airliner fly into its other tower.
Minutes later a third commandeered jet plunged into the Pentagon, and a fourth dived into the ground south of Pittsburgh after it apparently missed its target. The target is only a guess now, but some officials speculate it was Camp David or the White House.
Then both Trade Center towers with a normal occupancy of 50,000 imploded, sending glass, concrete, equipment and paper showering onto the streets below. Survivors, some of whom had descended from as high as the 90th floor, ran for their lives with clouds of debris following them, while others perished in the destruction. Loss of lives will be in the thousands. Those losses will change survivors' lives forever.
Recovering and rebuilding from the devastation will be years in the coming, and it will cost billions of dollars and still some won't recover completely. Life never will be the same as before 8:50 a.m. Eastern time, Sept. 11, 2001.
The tragedies touched Ketchikan, resulting in increased security, and closed federal buildings and operations. Ketchikan International Airport remained open, but had no customers. As throughout the nation, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered no flights in and out of this small community despite it being thousands of miles away from New York.
Float planes ceased flying. Only U.S. Coast Guard aircraft had the authority to take to the air here. The city went on the same high alert imposed throughout the United States. Hotels filled up with stranded airline passengers. Crowds of cruise ship tourists gathered around downtown TV centers to watch the news instead of shopping and seeing the traditional sites. Ketchikan's Fox Broadcasting Company affiliate, The Ketchikan Channel, canceled its programming in favor of continual news coverage. Some residents dismissed what they had planned to do Tuesday and instead monitored radio and television reports. Others worked with their attention divided between their duties and the reports.
As residents and visitors grappled with the reality of what had happened, it became apparent how insignificant most of the activities planned on a day-to-day basis really are. The shopping, the tours, the business meetings, the evening dinner parties, the housework or yard work on the to-do lists. Once creating an overwhelming sense of too much to do, all of a sudden none of it seemed all that important. Our lists, our problems who should be elected to public office, whether the schools should be managed one way or the other, what should be developed economically all remained concerns, but while the events associated with the tragedies unfolded, they just were not the most important concerns. Most of us thought of the fragility of life and how vulnerable we are when there are others willing and able to destroy it without regret; when others find honor in committing suicide and taking innocent victims with them.
We thought of the final hours of those victims, where they were traveling to or what they might have planned during the day at the office and later with their families. We knew none of them would have expected to die in a jet that crashed into a national landmark; we knew none could have imagined 89 concrete floors evaporating under their feet. Its just all too fantastic.
We cannot understand. Why?
So we turned to our sources of comfort. Our families, our friends, our churches. We prayed for everyone, but especially for the victims, their families, the rescuers and our nations leaders, that they will respond appropriately. We called our family members to check on them, and we philosophized and discussed the days events with co-workers, venting and analyzing, supposing and guessing. We found it was a difficult day, but we were not alone. And we concluded that together we will get through this.
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