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Spiritual Spinach: Looking back at 9/11
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Spiritual Spinach

Spiritual Spinach: Looking back at 9/11

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I was astounded by all the responses.

Earlier this week, I put a simple question on my Facebook page:

“Where were you on 9/11?”

To date, I’ve had 105 responses.

Many respondents were at work. Some were at home. Younger ones were in school.

Such responses remind me of people telling where they were when they heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked in 1941 or when President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963.

People of more recent times remember Sept. 11, 2001, very well.

Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of that terrible day when terrorists slammed airplanes into the North and South World Trade Center Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a Pennsylvania field.

History records that 2,977 people were killed in NYC, Virginia and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

On my Facebook page, Pam Duden of Herman shared her experience of that day. She was at work when the news broke that an airliner had hit the North Tower.

Someone turned on a television.

People stood watching as the second plane hit the South Tower.

“That’s when I knew I had to get my kids,” Pam wrote. “The school was in lockdown, however, and no one could come or go for the time being. I remember thinking, ‘This can’t be happening … not in the USA. Not to us.’”

Pam recalled the next day.

“I remember hearing on the radio that there wasn’t an American flag to be found, because everyone was buying them,” Pam wrote.

Fremonter Liz Rayl was working at Fontanelle Hybrids on 9/11. She’d just returned to work after she and her husband, Matt, had their first baby.

“It was my 25th birthday and we had planned our first post-baby night out and I just wanted to go home and hold my baby!” Liz wrote. “I remember everything like it was yesterday.”

Dawn Osness of Fremont was at home, where she was doing daycare, when the first plane hit. She was on the phone talking with her husband, Mark, when the second plane struck.

Their son, Kyle, turned 1 year old that day.

Kristin Bode Hubbell was in 10th grade algebra class at Fremont High School.

“Every class stopped and turned on the TV,” Kristin said.

Like many others, I remember that mild-weather day in September.

I was just getting back to work after having had some vacation time.

Now, I had some post-vacation blues.

I read a daily devotion that morning. It dealt with the men of Ephraim in the Old Testament.

In Psalm 78:9 it says: “The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle.”

If I remember correctly, the devotional said how we must not run — like those guys did — but stand firm and face the battle.

Looking back, it almost seems prophetic, but at the time I recall it simply being inspirational as I headed out the door to work — unaware of how the day would unfold.

I was in the newsroom when our photographer Mike Buckley came in saying a plane had smashed into one of towers.

Before long, we’d learn that a second plane had flown into the other.

Tracy Buffington had been our executive editor since August. I remember telling him that I thought this would be our top story.

He already knew that and started work on what would be a special edition, which we’d produce that night.

After planes hit the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania, I had an eerie feeling as I literally looked over my shoulder, wondering what would happen next.

As the day wore on, I remember hearing people say they thought the price of gas would go up. I remember the line at a local gas station, where I’d gone to top off my car’s tank.

That night, I took my son, Zachary, to Fremont High School, where about 400 people gathered for an hourlong prayer service that included songs, moments of silence and Scripture readings.

Pastors from local churches led participants in prayer for victims and their families, rescuers, the nation’s leaders and for restraint in responding to the situation.

The Rev. Cindy Cone was associate pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in Fremont at that time.

Back in 2001, her son Patrick, was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t get ahold of him because they were on lock down,” she said in a 2011 article. “I was worried about where he was and what he was doing after the planes crashed.”

Cone later talked to her son, who had been guarding a bunker that contained ammunition.

As the days passed, I’d be assigned to interview World War II veterans — asking how they compared the 9/11 attacks to the enemy attack on Pearl Harbor.

Veterans such as the late Everette Hilfiker pointed out that many of those killed at Pearl Harbor were military personnel, while almost all of those killed in 9/11 were civilians.

Everette, who served in Europe during WWII, also told me that seeing the television footage brought all sorts of horrific images and smells from that war to his mind.

“It all comes back, the dust, the smell of gunpowder … mortar shells, the smell of death,” he said.

Everette was a very kind man, who I trust is in heaven, a place where death and wars and pain don’t exist.

Someday, I hope and trust that I will be in heaven, where I can spend eternity with God and my precious loved ones.

In the meantime, I believe we need to remember the lives lost in 9/11 and the heroism seen that day.

On Saturday, First Lutheran Church in Fremont is planning a Community September 11 Remembrance.

The public is invited to the event, which starts with a Beginning Commemoration at 7:46 a.m. at the Eternal Flame at Veterans Park, 1558 E. Military Ave.

A fire and police escort will accompany those who want to walk from the Eternal Flame to the church’s west parking lot at 3200 E. Military Ave. A recognition service for first responders and health care providers will take place in the parking lot at about 8:30 a.m.

Speakers will include Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg and representatives from the Fremont Police and Fremont Fire Departments. Prayer and music will be part of the event.

As I write about this, I recall something else Pam wrote in her Facebook post.

She talked about the sense of patriotism and unity we experienced amid those uncertain days. I find that poignant especially during recent seasons when this nation has experienced political division.

“I pray we can all get back to that point, feeling all together as a country and the sense of pride we all had the next months,” Pam wrote. “I know we can get there again. My grandchildren deserve to feel the pride we all had those following days. Please … can’t we come together and be proud again.”

And may we continue to trust that God will love, help and protect us — no matter what we face in the future.

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly faith-based column.

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