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Local residents share 9/11 memories

September 10, 2006
(Page 4 of 7)

Those people on that plane are heroes in my eyes. They gave their lives to save a lot of people they did not know. My youngest daughter was married on Sept. 15. They put flowers on the alter for everyone who lost their lives. She was going to postpone her wedding, but was told it would be all right to go ahead.

I still think of that day and my heart still breaks for all those families. I pray every night for my family to be safe, I hope this never happens again.

- Shirley Stotelmyer

I work for USDA at 14th and Independence Avenue. I commute to Washington on the MARC train from Brunswick and live in Southern Washington County near the C&O Canal. I also ride a bike from Union Station to work.

I remember the events on that day as if it happened yesterday.

I left that morning for work as usual except that I forgot my cell phone. I remembered it as I was getting into my car but figured I wouldn't need it and I was running too late to go inside and get it. As it turned out, it might have been useful.


A meeting had been scheduled for 9 a.m. but before we got together, someone announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. With little interest in the meeting, everyone sought out radios or televisions to see what had happened.

When the second plane hit, most people, including myself, figured it was no coincidence and many people started leaving for home. We heard a rumor that a car bomb had gone off at the state department, the Pentagon had been hit and that a plane was headed toward the White House.

About that time, we were told that the government was closing and we were ordered out of the building.

I headed for my bike and took the ride across town to Union Station. Hundreds of people were standing around outside as the building had been closed and reports were that no trains were running. I sat under a tree across the street from Union Station watching the events unfold on a handheld television. All of the businesses were closing up including the hotdog vendors, so I could not find anywhere to buy some lunch.

Eventually, I headed down to a nearby hotel bar, where I attempted to use a phone but could not get through.

With Union Station closed, and Washington looking more and more deserted, I rode back to USDA. By then, the bumper-to-bumper traffic was gone, replaced by empty streets except for the many patrol cars parked with their lights flashing. I rode down the center stripe on Independence Avenue. Smoke from the Pentagon was off in the horizon. It was a rather surreal experience.

It was approaching 1 p.m. and I thought I would head back to Union Station to see if I could get a train out of DC. I was also debating whether I should instead start the 50 mile ride up the C&O canal to get home.

When I got to Union station, the crowds were gone but as far as the radio was saying, no trains were leaving and the guards around the building would not provide any information. I noticed people entering the lower entrance to the Metro on First Street so I parked my bike to investigate. I was able to get inside and up to the MARC trains where one train was set to leave for Brunswick.

While the story in itself is not that remarkable, what I remember most is the experience of riding my bike down Independence with no traffic and a large security presence. At the time, it did not seem real. I felt a certain amount of apprehension thinking some over-jittery security person would see me as a threat and take a shot at me.

Looking across the Potomac at the large plume of smoke rising from the direction of the Pentagon just added to the chill. There was also the confusion of not knowing what to do or where to go.

I think if a similar event were to occur, there would be little change from 9/11. I learned that ultimately, I will need to be responsible for myself and my needs. It may be that I will have to take the 50-mile ride down the C&O Canal. At least my family knows that will be where to look for me.

- William George
Southern Washington County

I had been working the night shift at First Data, and had gotten home about 7 a.m. I had been up for 18 hours at that point. I stayed up for another hour or so, and then I was ready for bed.

I hadn't been asleep long when my significant other came bursting through the bedroom door to let me know about the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. Of course I had just hit that part of the sleep cycle that when interrupted the mind can be sort of incoherent at first. I remember saying at that point that I'd watch the news broadcast when I got up.

My thinking was that it had just been another airline crash, but then again my mind was still in a fog.

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