Friday, September 9, 2011

In their own words

Valley residents share where they were on 9/11

It was not a particularly hectic day for me because I was on vacation. I was seven miles from the nearest road, and we did not find out about it for a few days. We several times mentioned how quiet it was, because we didn't hear the planes overhead. [When I met the sheriff's deputy], I thought it was some sort of prank at first. He said, "They need you back at the airport," and I said, "Why?"... Obviously, I didn't make it back to my camping trip.

We're not completely through it. The way airports do business has changed. It's more difficult as a passenger to pass through airports than it was prior to 9/11. It's more costly for those who use airports, because it's more costly for us to do business. We're not as friendly a place as we were. Very few people know the details of what goes on behind the fence.

Rick Baird

Friedman Memorial Airport manager

Interestingly enough, I was at home early that morning. I got a phone call from my duty operations guy saying, "Hey, are you watching the television? Apparently we have to close the airport. Something's happened." Things were happening very fast. We learned right then that the national air service had been shut down, and we basically needed to close the airport. We did as we were instructed. It was mind-boggling, because this is something that you can never train or be prepared for.

Because of it being in September, there were hunters in the backcountry of Idaho who were bow hunting. They had no way of knowing this was taking place. We actually had an airplane flying from the backcountry to Hailey without any knowledge of what had taken place. When they landed, I was there to meet them. They knew something was very strange, because they hadn't heard any traffic on the plane's radio. [The pilot] said, "What's going on?" I said, "Well, apparently the country's under attack." How do you tell someone something like that, when they left and everything was good? I'm sure what I was saying sounded completely preposterous.

Pete Kramer

Director of operations

Friedman Memorial Airport

I think I found out like everybody else. It was fairly early in the morning. My phone started ringing, and as it started to unravel and take place, and people realizing that we were actually under attack, we all started being contacted.

I was horrified, just horrified. I realized we were at war. That's going to change our lives, change the way we do business. A lot of people were reaching out to me, asking what they should be doing. People were afraid—if there was going to be another attack, if we were going to be a target. There was a lot of fear of the unknown. Everything was a target back then.

Walt Femling

Former Blaine County sheriff

I was watching the Today Show as it unfolded. They broke in with pictures of the planes just after the first plane had hit the north tower. I immediately left for work once the second plane hit, and I advised our crews that we were under attack, and that we should be watching this.

We knew that the firefighters were risking their lives and probably were going to be giving their lives in the service to others. We kept watching, and we stayed glued to the television for most of the morning. We knew there were going to be lives lost and that our lives were going to change.

There is no greater calling than to be in this line of work, and there is no greater respect that you can pay [to those lost] than to carry on with your life and continue to provide a public service.

For me, it still feels like it was yesterday. The event happened, and people will forget about that. For people in our line of work, we tend not to forget as easily. We'll continue to think of all the people that were lost that day we tend to think of the families of those fallen firefighters on a day-to-day basis. We'll overcome it, because we have to in order to do our work.

Our job is to bring order out of chaos. That is what we do. We really can't forget that day.

Bart Lassman


Wood River Fire & Rescue

I was actually at the Sun Valley Athletic Club at the time. The TV was on, and all activity stopped and all eyes went to the TV. [I was] stunned. I had friends who worked there, who went to school with me. I was trying to get a hold of them and couldn't get through, obviously.

It's always going to be a scar for everybody. It's affected everyone's life. It's a reminder that even though we live in a safe place, it's not always completely safe. It's affected everyone's psyche.

Jack Sibbach

Director of public relations

Sun Valley Co.

I had just started teaching in a new school district north of Seattle that September and didn't really have any close friends there yet. I had heard the news of the first tower being hit when I woke up, but thought it was simply a horrible accident. I turned on the TV briefly at school when I arrived and just couldn't believe what I was seeing.

I grew up on Long Island and it was hitting pretty close to home. I chose to keep the TV off and not discuss it with my students during class. I didn't think I could be very rational—I still have trouble with it. I remember feeling very lonely that day and sort of being in denial. I sometimes wonder if staying at work was the right thing to do. I think being there simply doing my job helped me. I hope I did OK by my students.

Glenn Lindsley

Math teacher

Wood River High School

Growing up, my parents and all of their friends could easily tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. Until 9/11, I had only one other event in my life that came even close to that experience. For me it had been the Challenger explosion. But 9/11 far surpassed the surprise and fear of that day to burn into my memory where I was, what I was doing, who I was missing and loving, and the importance of my job as a teacher.

I had just begun teaching in Blaine County only days before 9/11. I was a new teacher just arrived from Montana. The old high school (Community Campus) was so overcrowded that the new class-of-2001 teachers did not even have classrooms. We shuffled from room to room with carts and backpacks hoping students could find us. That morning I arrived at school listening to NPR as I did every day. The reporters on the air were describing a plane having crashed into the first tower. The news was sketchy and even the correspondents seemed disoriented and in shock.

I ran into the building and headed to a classroom of a colleague who I knew had a TV. We quickly turned it on and watched in amazement as the black smoke poured out of the building. What I was watching seemed unreal, TV- or movie-like. Armageddon on the screen. Shortly after that the second plane hit the tower while we watched. Stunned and shocked, we were asked to soldier on and begin school and attempt to allay students' fears—a tough job when fear was creeping into my own psyche. All I wanted to do was hunker down with my own family thousands of miles away.

Immediately, rumors circulated about who was responsible. In those rumors, stereotypes regarding Muslims and Arabs were rampant. As a teacher, I realized that it was my duty to remain calm for our kids and to teach tolerance, something that I've always thought important but now more than ever.

That day and every day after, I have tried to instill in my students respect and tolerance for all humans, regardless of their faith or ethnicity. Terrorism serves to create fear and perpetuate stereotypes. If we give into that fear, the terrorists have won. If we really examine the terrorists' motives, they too were based on fear and stereotypes about America and Americans. Today I'm proud to say that our Blaine County students are respectful of other cultures and open to learning. Today the lessons of 9/11 remain as important as ever.

Maritt Wolfrom

Social studies teacher

Wood River High School

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