Editor’s Note: As the years pass since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of news stories and ceremonies marking the anniversary diminish, and our memories sometimes fade. In remembrance of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and in honor of those whose lives were lost, we asked Kane County officials to reflect on where they were and what the events of that day have meant to them, to Kane County residents and to America. This is the second of a two-part series.
Kane County Board District 19
I was working for the Illinois General Assembly as a policy analyst at the time. My office was downtown in the James Thompson Governmental Center, which I later discovered was just outside the forecasted ground zero zone had the Sears Tower been a target.
I was in the shower listening to 670 the Score when they interrupted the morning show to announce one of the World Trade Center towers had been hit. At first I didn’t grasp the full severity. The radio broadcast did not fully explain the size of the plane, and I assumed it was a small aircraft that was lost or misdirected, similar to Empire State Building in the ’40s. By the time I finished showering, I turned on the television just in time to see the second plane hit. It got real very fast.
I received a text from my boss that I should go out to a legislative district office in Bolingbrook rather than the downtown office. Staff was to help answer constituent calls.
The office was dead, so I watched the news like most others, trying to find answers. None. The Internet was no better. Wild allegations against everyone from Arafat to Hussein. It wasn’t until later that evening that I even found out who the Taliban even were. “Osama who?” I thought.
Earlier that summer, I had bought a window flag for my car as a last-minute impulse buy at the cash register. On the way home, I flew it the whole way. Others on the expressway beeped their horns and gave me the thumbs up. Some hollered out their window, “God Bless America.”
That night, I sat around a bonfire with some of my closest friends. I cried on the phone with one of my best friends, because I knew our country was headed to war, and his unit would likely be called up. He was brave, and wanted to go. When he got off the phone with me, he drove to his local church and prayed outside. I prayed, as well.
I am very fortunate. At my age, I had a few friends who served multiple tours of duty following Sept. 11. These guys are like brothers to me, having grown up with me, and later in our lives having our children grow up together. They all came home. I thank God every day that they all came home, and pray for those who weren’t as fortunate.
So that is pretty much my memory of Sept. 11. Maybe someone remembers my little gesture on I-355. Who knows? What I hope everyone remembers is that our nation came together. It’s a shame that it took a tragedy like that to make it happen.
Kane County Board, District 18
My wife, Gail, and I were starting the day at our home office when one of our employees called to say he had heard something on the radio and that we should turn on the TV. Like everyone else, we watched all the shocking coverage throughout the morning.
My strongest memory was when it was reported that 100 percent of all air traffic in the nation was confirmed as landed. We went outside and just looked and listened at the silence, knowing this had never happened before and probably would never happen again.
At that point, very low on the southern horizon and very far away, we saw a tight cluster of several jet contrails moving very fast from west to east. We realized this was Air Force One and its military escorts on the way to Washington, D.C.
On such a emotional day, it was strange to actually see such a central part of the events that seemed, until then, far removed from us. It was also comforting knowing that what we were seeing was the leading edge of a huge national response. We later learned that Air Force One’s path had taken it over Illinois 50 or so miles south of Kane County. With the weather that day so clear, we were able to see it.
Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission Superintendent
I was only a freshman in high school at that time and I remember that day more vividly than most days in my life. I was always interested in joining the military, but that day solidified my future choice. Fast forward to today, as you know, we sent tens of thousands of Americans into harm’s way as a result of 9/11. I see the continuing cost that we paid that day and ever since, in my office on an almost daily basis. I vividly remember the sky being a bright, crisp blue, and there not being a cloud in it. Instead of being able to enjoy the beauty of a cloudless sky, I find myself thinking about the horrors of that day instead. That is something I will never get back — enjoying the beauty of a cloudless sky.