9/11 changed how some view and handle their security

September 04, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • Ken Snyder was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when a jet hit the building. Snyder is holding a historians book about the attack and a piece of limestone from the Pentagon.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

TRI-STATE — Ken Snyder is more cautious around crowds and is prone to a “defensive posture.”

Retired minister Torben Aarsand has noticed that “fear is just under the surface of our minds,” and it makes itself known in unrelated events — such as the recent earthquake.

Suzanne Hayes said one of the most remarkable experiences among baby boomers like herself was feeling that they had the world “on a string.”

Now, Hayes said, the next generation knows that’s not the case for them.

“And that’s very sad,” she said.

The effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks linger 10 years later.

According to the Associated Press, 2,977 people died in the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa.

Snyder, Hayes and Aarsand were among area residents who were interviewed in Herald-Mail stories about the attacks. Contacted a decade later, they looked back to the day when so much changed, and talked about their feelings today.

Snyder, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was working at his job in the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, Snyder started scanning the Internet, looking for news about what was happening.

Snyder said a co-worker next to him looked out a window at his desk and saw a jet heading for the Department of Defense headquarters. Snyder and his co-worker went under their desks and the plane plowed into another section of the Pentagon.

Looking out the window, Snyder saw a ball of flame and smoke.

“I could feel the heat from the flame. Keep in mind I was 300 meters away,” Snyder said.

Even today, it’s something the former Vietnam War combat helicopter pilot can’t get out of his mind.

“At the weirdest times, it plays back. Like a playback button,” Snyder said.

Six days after the attacks, Aarsand and pastors from 10 area Lutheran churches held a prayer meeting at Haven Lutheran Church in the North End of Hagerstown.

Aarsand, who was pastor at Haven Lutheran, prayed for those who “labored valiantly” after the attacks, people like his nephew who was and still is a member of the New York City Fire Department. For months, Aarsand said, his nephew worked at the scene of the demolished Twin Towers, combing through the debris looking for survivors  and the remains of those who perished.

Aarsand said there is a slideshow of photographs his nephew took while working in the debris. Taking the photos, he said, was his nephew’s way of “trying to process everything he had felt. I know deep down in his own life, he will never be the same.”

The experience of that day seemed to affect every American that day, no matter where they were, Aarsand said.

When the East Coast earthquake shook the area Aug. 23, some people at first feared it was another terrorist attack, Aarsand said.

“I think fear is just under the surface of our minds, and it arises at any moment by any particular thing,” Aarsand said.

Learning in May that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks, was killed by Navy SEALs gave him “a sense of relief,” Aarsand said.

Sense of security is gone
Hayes was working for a Morgan Stanley Dean Witter office in Hagerstown on Sept. 11, 2001. That morning, Hayes said, her office received a voicemail from a woman who worked on the 63rd floor of the World Trade Center’s Building Two.

Then came the terrorist attack.

No one called the woman back, and Hayes said at the time she was sure there was “nothing to call back.”

Hayes, who now works as a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch on Meadow View Drive in Hagerstown, said she does not remember who the woman was or if anyone ever found out who she was.

Looking back, Hayes said, Americans have a greater understanding of the attacks through analysis over the past decade.

“That said, it’s still breathtaking to think about what happened that day,” Hayes said. “That sense of feeling very secure got taken way.”

Hayes said the attacks changed the lives of Americans in so many ways.

Now, there is a heightened awareness of cyber security, and simple things like use of a credit card on the Internet can become a big deal, she said.

“Now, we’re reminded every day how vulnerable we are,” Hayes said.

Aarsand left Haven Lutheran Church in 2004 and retired last year. He does not remember the words he spoke at the 2001 prayer meeting, but he recalls making a plea for prayers for the first responders.

Aarsand said it is his faith that sustains him.

If he did not have hope in the resurrection of Christ, he would have no hope at all, Aarsand said. Being a “man of faith,” Aarsand said, he knows God is with him and things will be OK.

Aarsand recalled the “fervent” patriotism in the United States after the attacks.

But that hasn’t lasted, he said, adding that he considers Americans to be “myopic” because they see something before them, react to it and then forget it.

Snyder was working as a space-management specialist for the Department of Defense when the plane hit the Pentagon. He was in charge of relocating displaced workers and was later recognized along with others because of his work. He has a piece of stone from the damaged Pentagon.

Snyder, who lives off Dry Run Road in Berkeley County, said he eventually left the Pentagon, something he wanted to do because he felt the building was a target.

Snyder, who now works for the FBI, said he views life differently after the attacks.

“I’m more cautious around crowds,” Snyder said. “I try to observe people more. I try to protect myself, set up a defensive posture.”

Regarding patriotism, Snyder said he thinks the nation has “fallen back into a little bit of a nap.”

On the death of bin Laden, “I wish it would have been about 10 years sooner,” Snyder said. But he said he thinks bin Laden’s burial at sea was appropriate.

“Feed him to the sharks,” he said.

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