9/11: a personal memoir
(Author’s note: this commentary was written on Sept. 11 and 12, 2001, as events transpired. It has since been reprinted in various edits, in various years on the anniversary of those 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Today, September 11, 2022, 21 years on from that horrific day, let us pause and remember, not only those who died and those they left behind, but the specific example of those first responders who walked into danger to offer a helping hand to those trapped inside the twisted wreckage of hatred delivered to NYC, but did not walk out. For it is their example and sacrifice on that day that points humanity toward a better future where 9/11’s and Kabul Airport bombings are a part of our past, rather than the expectation for our collective future.)
September 11, 2001: The faint ring of a telephone stirred me from a restless sleep. I grudgingly opened my eyes and realized that it was fairly early in the morning on Tuesday, a weekend for me in my current employment cycle … I stumbled into my adjacent office and without my glasses tried to make out the caller ID through a sleep-encrusted blur. I lift the receiver.
“Turn on your television!” my friend Dewey’s voice commanded excitedly. “We were watching one of the World Trade Center buildings burning after a plane ran into it about 15 minutes ago and another one just flew into the other building!”
“When?” – Reality and dreams seemed to be mixing though I thought I was awake.
“Now!!! A second ago,” Dewey said & I knew this was not a “Jerky Boys” prank phone call. I hung up the phone without responding. I understood as my mind snapped to, that the information was presented not for discussion, but for action. I was at my complex of three televisions at the far end of my third-floor loft apartment over the Main Street Mill that was so reminiscent to me of the fifth-floor walkup loft I had sublet for a year 11 blocks north of the World Trade Center some 20 years earlier. I hit the “on” button on the smallest of the three, the old 13-inch that I had gotten from my mom. It sat several feet from my living area couch and was my preferred home-alone viewing screen. Perhaps its size helped me maintain the illusion that I wasn’t really addicted to it.
The crystal-sharp satellite picture quickly appeared, I picked up the remote and punched in 970, the satellite channel for the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. As a child, it would, as likely as not, have been the morning news station I would be watching as I got ready for school and my parents prepared for their respective federal government jobs in D.C. and Rosslyn, Virginia.
There they were, the twin towers gleaming on a bright September morning against a cloudless, bright, blue sky – except for the huge plumes of black smoke pouring from the top 20 or so floors of both buildings. I flashed on the old ’70s movie “Towering Inferno”. How did that movie I’d never seen more than about 10 minutes of at a time end?!? How many were saved? How long did it take to finally – just burn out?
Bryant Gumble’s calm TV voice hypnotically recited the facts as known at – I flicked the info button to see the time, 9:07 a.m.
“Two planes … believed to be a 737 and a 767 … 18 minutes apart … North Tower first, then the South Tower … Not known if intent or accidents … Here it is. Watch to the right of your screen and you’ll see the second plane as it approaches and plows into the South Tower.”
Oh man, that wasn’t an accident!! There was malevolent intent apparent the first time I saw it. That building was a target. But can’t alarm the public with unsubstantiated theories – public, I have public there!!!
I raced back to my office for the phone. Stuart and Annie Lee, my friends since college days in Richmond, Virginia, at old VCU, the urban university; Stuart and Annie, whom I sublet that Lower Manhattan loft from in 1979-80, when I had my New York state of mind experience, still lived in that five-story walkup, 11 blocks from the World Trade Center.
Two-one-two, two-zero-two, NYC/DC, I always transpose those area codes in my head. I focus and dial two-one-two … The line picks up on the second ring. It is Annie’s voice, “Hello” – she seems breathless.
“Annie, what the hell is going on up there,” I blurt out not letting on how relieved I am to hear her voice.
“I don’t know but it’s pretty bizarre,” she replied.
We used to joke about whether the North Tower, the closest one to their loft, would fall on their building if it tipped over on its side northbound. It seemed that close, those big rectangles looming out of the back loft windows and over the rooftop deck Stuart had built. That was after their 1977 wedding in Charleston, South Carolina, Annie’s home turf. I glanced at the time on the caller ID. It was 9:11 a.m. – REALLY?!? I thought without verbalizing it.
“I just saw a tape of the second plane hitting the second building,” I said.
Annie hesitated, then said, “Roger, I was down there when they exploded.”
I was stunned. She had been closer than her home, at 9 in the morning. Was she nuts? What was Annie, an artist, a sculptor doing in the financial district at 8:45 in the morning? I must have verbalized the question as well as thought it.
“I was at the fish market they have in the parking lot on the east side of the Trade Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays (that’s an acceptable reason, I thought). We heard a plane and we all ducked. We knew it didn’t belong there so low over the city. Then the building exploded and we had to run under this building overhang to get away from all the burning debris that was coming down after the explosion. After the second explosion I thought I better get out of there and I went to look for my bike, which was on the Trade Center side. Luckily it was OK and I just came in the door when you called.
“You said the plane HIT the building?” she trailed off, apparently just making the connection between the low-flying plane that had caused those at the fish market to duck reflexively and the first explosion. “I didn’t, we didn’t – Listen Roger, I don’t mean to cut you off but I want to clear the line for my mom. I know she’s going to try and call or I should call her before the lines get clogged up.”
“OK, sure. Where’s Stuart,” I wanted to make sure the calm in her voice included knowledge of Stuart’s whereabouts before we disconnected.
“Good. You all take care and stay in touch.” I hung up.
They were OK.
That she was down there in physical jeopardy had jolted me …
I was back at the TV. I plopped on the couch. It was 9:15. It was like I was hypnotized, the emotional trauma of world-changing events perceived at an almost subconscious level. In a weird way it was like 1963 and 1968. But no, it was 2001 – the real first year of not only a new century but a new millennium; 2001, much bigger deal than 1901; none like it since 1001 – a thousand-year bookmark on the pages of history. So, I channel surf throughout the morning of September 11, 2001.
The World Trade Center, the Pentagon are in flames!! All air traffic to the U.S. being diverted and all planes in the states being brought down. – How?
“A plane down in the woods of western Pennsylvania – Camp David may have been the target” is theorized on the air.
BUT THEN – a huge plume of smoke in lower Manhattan. What the …?!?!
Is there only one building there?
In a panic I look for competent reporting and a familiar voice. CNBC broadcasts from lower Manhattan, competent, who knows; familiar and boots on the ground, yes.
“One of the two World Trade Center towers has collapsed,” a camera shot from across the Hudson River – lower Manhattan looks like it is on fire – back to NWI (News World International) – they had the live feed from a New York City ABC affiliate earlier with a poor guy on the phone who was trapped on the 85th floor because the fire doors had locked up – which building was he in? Is he dead? He said things were under control and stabilizing and he was giving directions to where he and one other person were trapped with windows blown out – the firemen must have been going up …
Watching NWI with their main Canadian affiliate as … the … second tower … collapses from the top down – “Oh my God. Oh my God” the on-air voice repeats calm but distraught – how is that even possible? – as off camera, yelling and screaming with no pretense of calm maintained as the North Tower joins its sibling on the ground … where am I?!!? Two 110-story buildings … gone …
I watch lower Manhattan from across the Hudson River again. It is totally enshrouded in smoke. Are people suffocating in that? Could you breathe in there?
Again try Stuart and Annie. Nothing …
Then tears came and I sobbed with worry for my friends and for my old neighborhood; for 50,000 or 5,000 people, I didn’t know; for two buildings that had stood like a magical, surrealistic backdrop to an already magical skyline for a quarter of a century or more; for the firemen and the cops who went in there trying to get trapped people out … It’s just enormously, monumentally tragic and screwed up and I don’t feel bad about crying …
That it has come to this is tragic in more than the obvious ways. – Things will never be the same. A dark thought flashes into my consciousness – is that what it is really all about?
As the day progresses I follow the pending collapse of adjacent buildings, watch ghost-like, dust-covered people stumble, walk calmly with their briefcases or run from the rubble and spreading, spewing cloud that covers lower Manhattan.
As the skies over America clear of all air traffic for the first time in the age of air travel, an age that has existed all of my life, I wonder how the next attack will come, who will bring it and why …
As the day progressed into night, lower Manhattan took on an eerie look as powerful spotlights bracketed debris and the continually rising cloud of smoke from fires burning deep within the rubble of 220 stories, estimated at 1.2 million tons of debris that will take a year to clear …
Who knows how long it will take my mind – or anyone’s – to assimilate what has happened.
By Roger Bianchini
Sept. 11-12, 2001
Virginia patriots remembered in historic grave marking ceremony
The echoes of the past reverberated through the hallowed ground of McIlhaney Family Cemetery as descendants and societies dedicated to the memory of the Revolutionary War united in a poignant ceremony. The Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), along with other participating SAR chapters and Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) societies, marked the graves of Rev War patriots James McIlhaney and William H. Parker.
James McIlhaney, a Loudoun County native born in 1749, served valiantly during the Revolutionary War. His commission as Lieutenant in the 10th Virginia Regiment came in March 1776, with a subsequent promotion to Captain. McIlhaney demonstrated his courage in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown before resigning from service in June 1778.
William H. Parker, born in Westmoreland County in 1752, etched his name in the annals of history as a midshipman on the Virginia State Ship (VSS) Tartar, later advancing to the rank of Lieutenant and taking command of the vessel. Parker’s bravery was evident during the Battle of Osborne’s Landing when he defied surrender, swimming ashore to join the Virginia militia. He would later play an integral role in the Battle of Green Spring and the Siege of Yorktown.
Ken Bonner, President of the Sgt Maj John Champe SAR Chapter, led the ceremony, which included six SAR chapters, three DAR chapters, two Children of the American Revolution (CAR) societies, and direct descendants of the patriots.
During the event, attendees were graced by the Virginia State Color Guard, commanded by Barry Schwoerer. The pledge of allegiance, led by Rand Pixa, President of the George Washington SAR Chapter, was a resounding testament to the ongoing commitment of Americans to their historic roots.
The graves of the two patriots were vigilantly guarded by sentries Gary Dunaway and John Lynch, both from the Williamsburg SAR chapter, who later unveiled the grave markers during the dedication ceremony. Numerous wreaths were presented by participants, symbolic of the respect and reverence held for these revolutionary heroes.
A heartfelt tribute came in the form of a three-round musket salute delivered by the combined Virginia SAR firelock squad. This salute was followed by the stirring notes of a bagpipe played by MacPhearson Strassberg from the Rev John Marks Society CAR, underlining the solemnity of the occasion.
Those present to pay their respects included a host of participants from various SAR and DAR chapters, offering a visual representation of unity and shared purpose in the ceremony. The SAR participants, as well as the musket squad, gathered for a group photograph, capturing this significant moment for posterity.
The ceremony served as a timeless tribute to McIlhaney and Parker, embodying the enduring respect and appreciation for the patriots who shaped America’s early days of freedom. This event reinforced the importance of such commemorations in reminding current and future generations of the sacrifices made in pursuit of liberty and independence.
An emotional and educational Dogs of War service kicks off Memorial Day weekend in Front Royal
Saturday, May 27, was no ordinary day in Front Royal. As the sun shone brightly on a beautiful late spring afternoon, the melodic sounds of Jim Lundt’s bagpipe ushered in a crowd of about 60 spectators and participants to the Humane Society of Warren County’s (HSWC) Julia Wagner Animal Shelter for the second annual Dogs of War and Law Enforcement K-9 team Memorial Day weekend event.
The Dogs of War Garden of Remembrance, a tranquil space nestled within the shelter grounds, was the hub of this heartwarming celebration. At its center stands a statue of a German Shepherd – a poignant representation of war dogs and law enforcement canines’ loyal service throughout history. Accompanied by a heartfelt dedication note, this statue embodies the community’s profound gratitude toward these unsung heroes.
Meghan Bowers, HSWC Executive Director, kick-started the event by introducing the man behind the memorial garden’s creation – Malcolm Barr Sr. As a lifelong animal advocate and former HSWC Board President, Barr’s passion led to the inception of the War Dog and Law Enforcement K-9 Memorial Garden. His efforts have not only shaped this Memorial Day weekend celebration but also ensured a year-round tribute to these canine heroes.
Bowers emphasized the appropriateness of Front Royal as the event’s location, noting the deep historical connection it shares with war dogs. It was here in Front Royal at the Remount Training Center that the first U.S. dogs trained for combat in World War II were prepared, a fact that Barr highlighted, adding significance to the ceremony.
The event was graced by the participation of various local authorities and services. A Color Guard was provided by the Front Royal Police Department, with FRPD Officer Olivia Meadows in attendance with her K-9 partner Marley. Representatives from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Front Royal Fire Department also lent their support.
In his address, Barr gratefully acknowledged the HSWC for dedicating a section of the animal shelter property to the memorial garden, which was inaugurated on this date last year.
Keynote speaker Steve Herman, chief national correspondent for Voice Of America and Barr’s former colleague at the Associated Press offered a detailed account of the history of dogs in warfare dating from the 7th century B.C. through World War II into modern times. Upon learning about this memorial service, Herman eagerly expressed interest in participating in the event.
During his address, he acknowledged his friend Barr Sr.’s efforts dating to the Vietnam era in having an overgrown war dog cemetery Barr had come across while on a reporting assignment on the Pacific Island of Guam, a major battlefield of the Second World War, rehabilitated. That site later became recognized as a national War Dog Cemetery.
Following Herman’s keynote address, Barr introduced Front Royal Councilman Skip Rogers, himself a former military dog handler, to lead the local law enforcement and K-9 contingent in the solemn act of laying a wreath at the Wagner Shelter Memorial Garden site.
The Valley Chorale, renowned for its exceptional talent, provided a melodic backdrop to the event. They performed both the opening and closing songs at the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter, adding a unique warmth to the proceedings.
This year’s celebration served as a poignant tribute to the enduring partnership between man and his canine companions in both wartime and on the domestic law enforcement front. It paid a well-deserved homage to the invaluable service dogs who have, and continue to, serve valiantly in times of peace and conflict.
Watch the Royal Examiner’s exclusive video of the Dogs of War and Service Memorial Day event.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for May 29 – June 2, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight mobile lane closures for vegetation management, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of June 8.
*NEW* Mile marker 5 to 13, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures, including along Exits 6 and 13 off-ramps for sign work, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight mobile lane closures for vegetation management, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through Tuesday night.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight single lane closures for equipment moving and bridge removal work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of July 7.
*NEW* Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) – Shoulder closures near Route 638 (Fiery Run Road/Freezeland Road) intersection for sign work, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
*NEW* Route 79 (Apple Mountain Road) – Shoulder closures between Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) and I-66 on-ramp for sign work, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
No lane closures were reported.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
County overseen FR-WC EDA reviews committee reports, finances, and development of MOU with County at May meeting
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA held its monthly meeting on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 8:30 AM. All seven Board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present; Board Members Rob MacDougall and Hayden Ashworth participated remotely.
The regular meeting began with committee reports. Board Chairman Scott Jenkins mentioned the next Open-Door Business Session on June 1, which will focus on Workforce, and provided updates on recent meetings. The Board also provided updates on the Avtex Conservancy Property progress.
Treasurer Jim Wolfe and County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty provided an update on the EDA financial statements. Mr. Wolfe also gave an update on the Small Business Loan Committee and proposed the next steps for the committee.
Board Chairman Jenkins and Mr. Petty gave updates on the draft EDA & County MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) and support agreements that should be ready by June.
The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss potential disposition of real property to business prospects and legal consultation on active litigation. No new business followed the closed session.
The next regular monthly EDA Board meeting will be held on Friday, June 23, 2023, at 8:30 AM, at the Warren County Government Center.
Laurel Ridge drones program comes first in international award category
Laurel Ridge Community College’s drones program has been named a first-place winner in the Workforce Development category of the XCELLENCE Awards by the Association for Uncrewed Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI). Laurel Ridge was selected from a pool of accomplished applicants for their work in uncrewed systems technology. Winners were publicly congratulated during the XCELLENCE awards ceremony during AUVSI XPONENTIAL on May 9 in Denver, Colo. This year’s 50th-anniversary event was co-hosted by Messe Düsseldorf North America.
“This year, XPONENTIAL is all about designing a shared plan for the future of autonomy,” said Keely Griffith, Vice President of Strategic Programs at AUVSI. “There’s no better place to announce the 2023 XCELLENCE award finalists. Together, they are redefining what’s possible with uncrewed and robotic technology.”
The “Laurels Take Flight” initiative, under the leadership of Professor Melissa Stange, brought this new and exciting career field to life beyond Laurel Ridge through webinars, camps, classes, workshops, and trainings for community members, from kindergarteners to those in the workforce. The college began offering new drone courses last fall. These classes include a mix of face-to-face and online instruction, as well as plenty of time flying a variety of enterprise-level drones.
In January, two career studies certificates were approved by regional accreditors, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Flight Operator certificate teaches students the fundamentals of sUAS operations. It aligns with the aeronautical knowledge required for FAA-approved commercial operations as a remote pilot and prepares students to sit for the FAA part 107 exam.
The more advanced small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Flight Technician certificate provides both theory and hands-on experience with mission planning, ground control, emergency procedures, drone programming, and training on using geospatial data for analysis, presentation and decision making.
The AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards honor innovators with a demonstrated commitment to advancing autonomy, leading, and promoting safe adoption of uncrewed systems and developing programs that use these technologies to save lives and improve the human condition.
“It’s really an honor to receive an international award in workforce development for our uncrewed aircraft systems program, and it’s a testament to the work that program lead Dr. Stange has done to advance awareness of uncrewed systems and advanced air mobility as a career in our region,” said Dr. Craig Santicola, dean of Laurel Ridge’s School of Professional Programs. “While our Laurels Take Flight initiative is still new, we have held quite a few events and courses and have more planned for the coming year. Thanks to a GoVirginia grant, we will also be able to grow UAS training into Fauquier and Rappahannock counties by offering drone academies to the counties’ high school students this fall.
“As the industry for uncrewed systems and advanced air mobility grows, it’s imperative that our region meet industry demand through a trained workforce that can operate these systems safely in the national airspace system. Our program focuses on safety and providing students time flying a variety of enterprise-level drones, but we also do a lot of community outreach to provide education on the new and rapidly expanding career opportunities that UAS can provide. Winning this award affirms that we are on the right track with our innovative programs, and we can’t wait to unveil our other new certificate programs in the coming months.”
Learn more about Laurel Ridge’s drones program at laurelridge.edu/drones. For more information about AUVSI, visit AUVSI.org. For more information about the AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards and XPONENTIAL 2023, visit xponential.org.
Melissa Ichiuji Gallery Grand Opening – Studio Gallery unveils vibrant creativity in downtown Front Royal
American artist Melissa Ichiuji is thrilled to announce the opening of her anticipated Studio Gallery located in the heart of the lovely Shenandoah Valley on Saturday, June 10th, 2023, from 11:00 to 6:00 pm. The studio is located at 223 E. Main Street in Front Royal, and gallery hours will be each Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
To mark its opening, Melissa Ichiuji Studio Gallery will exhibit a collection of work that reflects the essence of Ichiuji’s artistic experience. The exhibition will include pieces crafted from a variety of mediums, including both sculptures and paintings, to showcase Ichiuji’s range of talents.
Melissa Ichiuji’s works are bold and provocative, many times delving into themes of ecstasy, metamorphosis, and transcendence and sometimes incorporating hints of surrealism and sexual puns.
She is fearless in her creativity and draws inspiration from a rich array of materials, including welded steel, ceramics, textiles, and found objects, all of which allow her to express meaning through form, color, and texture.
The gallery serves as a dynamic setting for Ichiuji to display her works, allowing viewers to engage with her talent in a space that is as captivating as the art itself. The gallery will also function as an innovative hub for other creatives to share their passions and talents through exhibits, concerts, lectures, and classes, an addition that will aim to foster a thriving community of creators.
Melissa Ichiuji Studio Gallery invites the public to experience the artwork firsthand every Friday and Saturday, from 11 AM to 6 PM, and via private viewings by appointment, allowing for a more intimate and personalized experience.
For more information, visit Melissa Ichiuji Studio Gallery’s website at www.melissaichiuji.com
To schedule an appointment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-252-4570
About The Artist
Melissa Ichiuji is an American artist based in Virginia. Her artistic vision is characterized by its bold and original voice, resulting in pieces that encapsulate confidence and playful vibrance. Ichiuji’s captivating talent has earned her international acclaim, with exhibitions featured in museums and galleries in Paris, Brussels, Munich, Berlin, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Her pieces have been featured in renowned publications such as Art in America, Modern Luxury, Art Investor, NYART, Textiel Plus, The Washington Post, and 100 Artists of Washington, D.C.
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