9/11 close to home

They felt the attacks, and can't forget

They felt the attacks, and can't forget

September 10, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN- A firefighter - a brother - died on a cataclysmic call at the World Trade Center.

An investment banker - a brother and a son - called home just after a plane hit his tower.

Employees at a Hagerstown office heard a phone message from a New York City colleague and wondered if she survived.

At the Pentagon, a worker ducked under a desk when a plane hit the building.

An Air Force officer evacuated after being told that a bomb had gone off, but realized the truth was more terrible.

Five years after the worst terrorist attacks America has known, five people with Tri-State ties have preserved crisp memories of their 9/11 experiences.


Lee Cherry's 49-year-old brother Vernon, a New York City firefighter, died while on duty.

In a front-page newspaper photo, Vernon's ladder truck could be seen crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, on the way to the World Trade Center. Dark smoke was pouring from both towers.

During a recent look-back interview, Lee, who lives in Hagerstown, used smaller details to replay his brother's life.

Such as Vernon's velvety singing voice. Or the cell phone he forgot at home when he left for work on Sept. 11, 2001.

Still, Lee Cherry, a Seventh-day Adventist with a graphic design business, talks more freely about the symbolism he sees in the terrorist attacks.

"There's a war going on between God and the devil for human beings ...," he said. "The devil hates the Constitution. It gives rights, like freedom of speech."

Spurred by his religious faith, he watches documentaries about the attacks and tracks controversial theories.

Cherry and a friend have republished books by Ellen G. White, a founder of the Adventist church. He also teaches art and design at an Adventist school in Pine Forge, Pa.

"It doesn't hurt anymore," he said of his brother's death. "It's been a few years .... I still feel sorry for my brother, but when you have an outlook like I do, you feel serious (about) what's going to happen next. You've got to warn the people."


When a plane hit the North Tower, Alan Patrick Linton Jr. called his mother and sister in Frederick, Md., his hometown, to say he was fine.

Linton had moved from Frederick to work at Sandler O'Neill & Partners on the 104th floor of the South Tower.

Not long after he hung up, a plane hit the South Tower.

The Lintons wished for many weeks that Alan, 26, was lost, with amnesia, or in some other way alive but unable to reach his family.

New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner changed Alan's status from "missing" to "dead" in July 2002, based on a DNA match of a bone fragment less than an inch long.

Anniversaries and other milestone days don't change how the family feels, said Alan's father, Alan Patrick Linton Sr., who is known as Pat. Daily, they grieve for him and find joy in his memory, Pat Linton said.

The Lintons are satisfied that Alan is with God. "He doesn't want anybody to sit around and mourn for him," Pat Linton said. "He's fine."

Since Alan died, Pat Linton retired from BB&T Corp. and became a consultant; Alan's sister, Laura Anspach, became a mother and has a second baby on the way; and his brother, Scott, obtained a business degree from McDaniel College.

The Linton family donated $100,000 to help build the Alan P. Linton Emergency Shelter for the Homeless, which opened in 2002. The shelter houses Exodus, a transitional living program for homeless people.

The Lintons remain tight; Alan's name comes up often. "He's still part of the family," Pat Linton said.


At the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter office in Hagerstown, a phone message came from a colleague in the World Trade Center's South Tower.

At the time, Suzanne Hayes said no one called the woman back because "I'm sure there's nothing to call. You can't think that anybody in that circumstance survived."

Five years later, Hayes, of Hagerstown, was glad to admit that her presumption of doom was wrong; the caller survived.

"Because of an extremely good evacuation plan and people who were well prepared," only 13 of the company's employees died, she said. The company had about 2,500 employees in the South Tower.

Hayes - now at the Frederick office of Morgan Stanley (Dean Witter has been dropped from the name) - said the attacks vaporized a sense of security the post-World War II generation has unwittingly enjoyed.

"What's left is thinking how different our world is," she said. "Who would have thought that I have to take off my shoes to get on an airplane."


At Ken Snyder's Pentagon office that day, someone mentioned the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. He checked the Internet to find out more.

A coworker with a window seat told people to get down on the ground.

The solid concrete building shook for a second. Snyder, a space management specialist at the Pentagon, said he saw "a huge column of fire."

"You could feel the heat from the fuel through the window - maybe 350 meters away," he recalled.

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