(Author’s note: this commentary was written on Sept. 11 and 12, 2001, as events transpired. Today, September 11, 2019, Royal Examiner reprints an edited version to commemorate the 18th anniversary of that horrific day in memory of those who died and those they left behind.)
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 focused and I picked up the remote and, punched in channel 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 in 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 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 their back 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 trapped on the 85th floor because the fire doors 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.
Meet Perry and Holly Leach from A&P Builders
Mike McCool, our publisher, stopped by the offices of Perry and Holly Leach on Friday, February 28th to thank them for their support and to get a sneak peek at the Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Company.
A & P Builders, LLC is a diversified Class A Remodeling Company and was established in March of 2000 and serves the Shenandoah Valley.
Perry and Holly are committed to providing you with the highest level of service, so you’ll always choose them for your remodeling needs. Remodeling can be intrusive in your daily life and can be inconvenient. So, they want to make the process as easy and enjoyable as possible for you. They genuinely care about your project and your experience, and it shows.
Watch this short video with Perry and Holly, find out about their company A&P Builders and what they do.
R-MA student selected as Horatio Alger Scholarship National Scholar
When Randolph-Macon Academy senior Citlaly Sosa received an email in January that said the 2020 Horatio Alger Scholarship National Scholars had been announced, she was heartbroken – she had not been selected. She hadn’t even gotten the State Scholar honor, something her older sister had achieved. Citlaly’s disappointment was short-lived, however, as she received a call the next day from her Horatio Alger sponsor, who apologized for the error and informed her that she had indeed been selected as a National Scholar.
“When I found out, I cried, and then my parents asked me, ‘Why are you crying? You never cry,’” Citlaly recalled. “This is so amazing. To be one of the 106 people selected this year out of the 32,000 people who applied… I am very honored.”
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc, awards each National Scholar a $25,000 scholarship to be used in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2020 Horatio Alger National Scholars Conference in Washington, DC, April 1-5, 2020.
As stated on their website, members and friends of the Horatio Alger Association fund college scholarships for low-income youth. Since its inception in 1984, the Association has awarded more than $159 million to approximately 20,000 students. The “Scholar Services” go beyond the initial scholarship award, including financial aid and scholarship counseling, assistance with housing needs, internships, and even support for emotional, personal, legal, and financial obstacles.
“I’m so proud of her,” said Randolph-Macon Academy College Counselor Mary Gamache. “She has done everything she possibly could to earn everything she possibly can.”
“Everything” has been earning a place on the R-MA honor rolls every quarter, rising to one of the top positions in Air Force Junior ROTC, being active in community service, assisting the R-MA Admission Office with events, participating on R-MA’s championship drill team, serving on the R-MA Honor Council, playing varsity sports, and even being elected to the Homecoming Court. It has all kept Citlaly very busy, but as Chief Gamache had believed, her hard work is paying off.
Front Royal man arrested and charged for felony eluding and reckless driving
On February 25, 2020, Front Royal Police Officer J. Treese attempted to conduct a traffic stop at approximately 8:30pm on a 2013 Chevy Corvette that was traveling at a high rate of speed in the 1400 block of N. Royal Avenue. The vehicle did not display a license plate and when the officer activated his emergency lights, the vehicle failed to yield, and a pursuit was initiated. The pursuit continued through several jurisdictions to include Warren County, Shenandoah County, Strasburg and Frederick County.
Front Royal officers discontinued the pursuit; however, the pursuit was re-initiated by Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police while on I-81. The vehicle stopped in Clarke County, where the driver fled from the vehicle on foot. The area was searched by Frederick and Clarke County deputies and the Virginia State Police; however, the driver was not located.
With the assistance of Upper Pottsgrove Township Police Department located in Pennsylvania, Front Royal Police has identified the driver as William Watson Allen IV. Charges were obtained on Allen for Felony Eluding and Reckless Driving. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office arrested William Watson Allen IV this morning just over the West Virginia state line. Allen was transported to the Eastern Regional Jail. Other charges may be forthcoming in this matter.
Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to please contact Detective Ramey at 540-636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.
United Way donates $5,500 to Blue Ridge Legal Services
The United Way of Front Royal-Warren County has donated $5,500 to Blue Ridge Legal Services (BRLS) for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The United Way has partnered with the free legal services clinic for several years, and is very happy to do so again this year!
According to its website, “BRLS is a non-profit charitable civil legal aid program providing free legal assistance in civil matters of critical importance to low-income residents of the Shenandoah Valley and Roanoke Valley. BRLS is committed to eliminating poverty-based inequities in the civil justice system by providing high-quality legal advice and representation to low-income residents of (its) service area, folks who would otherwise be unable to obtain legal help due to their poverty.” (Blue Ridge Legal Services, Inc.)
Blue Ridge Legal Services performs valuable services for the people of Front Royal-Warren County. In 2019, the agency closed 37 cases that benefited 83 low-income Warren County residents, including affirmative lump sum recoveries of $12,469 and monthly benefits of $4,116, and avoidance of claims, costs, and liabilities totaling $6,600 along with $353 in monthly costs avoided. In cases where the agency provided extended representation, it achieved client goals in 92% of those cases, and partially achieved client goals in another 8% of cases.
Since 1950, the United Way has worked to advance the common good in Front Royal-Warren County. The community wins when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable, and when people are healthy. The United Way’s goal is to create long-lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of the challenges we face. Living United means being part of the change!
To reach the United Way offices in Front Royal-Warren County (134-B Peyton Street, Front Royal, VA, 22630), please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-635-3636.
Update: Bridge demolition at Route 123 continues this week, Feb. 24-28
Demolition and lane closures to occur during nighttime hours
Demolition continues during overnight hours this week on the ramp from I-66 West to Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) South over I-66 to make room for the future reconstructed Route 123 Interchange, as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project. This demolition activity must occur during the overnight hours, as multiple lane closures and temporary traffic stoppages on I-66 are required to safely complete this work.
What Nearby Residents and Drivers Should Expect:
• Removal of bridge beams is planned for Monday night, Feb. 24. Demolition of two bridge piers is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 25, through Friday night, Feb. 28.
• Five nights of demolition-related activity remain during this phase. The schedule will be adjusted if weather delays occur.
• Nearby residents may hear unavoidable construction-related noise during demolition operations.
• Drivers should plan for nightly lane closures for the demolition work on I-66 East between Route 50 and Route 123 with occasional 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 4 a.m. (5 a.m. on weekends).
Crews completed the removal of the concrete bridge deck of the Route 123 ramp over I-66 on Sunday night, Feb. 23. Demolition activities that don’t require multiple lane closures on I-66 will occur during daytime hours.
Demolition of the I-66 bridges over Fairfax County Parkway (Route 286) is also scheduled to continue this week. Nightly lane closures on I-66 East and Route 286 North and South will be implemented to safely accommodate this work.
All work is weather dependent and will be rescheduled if inclement conditions occur. Find additional details on planned traffic closures at www.Transform66.org.
Linden ladies embrace Company 4-hosted FRPD Self-Defense Class
On Sunday afternoon, February 23, the Front Royal Police Department took its class on self-defense for a specific and sometimes more vulnerable segment of the population to the Linden Fire & Rescue headquarters. Linden Volunteer Fire Department Company 4 President Suzi Shiley explained the town police foray outside the town limits was at her request to make the ladies self-defense class more accessible to women in the Linden area of eastern Warren County.
Before the 1 p.m. start of the class, we spoke to Shiley, class instructor Sgt. Jason Winner and Warren County Victim-Witness Coordinator Kelliann Harris, who traced her involvement in the FRPD self-defense program to her previous stint with the Laurel Center for victims of sexual violence.
Shiley noted that the response had been good, around 35, for a class capped at 20 participants, leaving the possibility of a second class being hosted at Company 4 later in the year. Shiley noted she had registered for the FRPD self-defense class about two years ago after seeing an ad at a local church.
“I took the class with Sgt. Winner and I enjoyed it immensely, and I remember to this day things that he taught us. So, I thought it would be great for the women of Linden to have the program here at the fire department at no cost,” Shiley said.
As we spoke, participants registered to bring Sunday’s turnout to 18, with several additional onlookers who appeared familiar with some of the techniques being taught. Royal Examiner spoke to one of those registered, Melissa Eakle, about the impetus for her participation.
“I actually came for my daughter – she’s getting ready to go off to college and in the world that we live in today, especially when you’re out on your own, you need to know just to play safe, be aware and what to do if something bad does happen to show the confidence to know how to take care of that situation,” Eakle, herself a personal physical trainer, said of her family’s dual registration.
And if her daughter’s aggressive embracement of techniques demonstrated by Sgt. Winner and FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis is any indicator, she will indeed be prepared with the knowledge and physical skills taught Sunday for her first solo foray into the world at childhood’s end.
As will the other participants, young and more mature, all of whom were attentive through Sgt. Winner’s introductory remarks and PowerPoint presentation giving an overview of, not only how to fight for your life and personal safety, but how to maintain the situational awareness to head off those situations before they reach the crisis point.
“The best way to win the fight is not to be in it,” Winner told the class before they hit the mat to practice those combat techniques necessary when all the means to avoid that final confrontation have been exhausted. And the FRPD physical combat instructor, who taught these techniques to his colleagues before his 2011 involvement in taking them into the community, stressed the importance of mental acuity in the experience of day-to-day life.
Different situations demand different strategies, Winner pointed out, noting that responses to being individually stalked in public areas will differ from an episode of domestic violence or an active shooter situation that has become all too familiar in “the world we live in today”.
Winner told his class to practice every day, not only the physical self-defense techniques they would learn, but the mental ones of situational awareness allowing one to overcome physiological reactions to stress and process your choices of “run, stay or fight” as quickly and efficiently as possible.
He also pointed to the negative impact on situational awareness of modern technologies like cell phones and individual mobile musical play systems that distract or deafen users from early signs of trouble in remote situations like large commercial parking lots or public areas in which they might find themselves alone and being followed.
And that is good advice for all of us – everything has its time and place EXCEPT our physical safety and survival. Awareness of potential threats to those should be a priority for us all, at all times.
Though as Winner cautioned his students Sunday, “Don’t just punch someone in the face who asks you what time it is or offers to help you with your groceries – there are some nice people out there. But if the hair on the back of your neck stands up, trust your instincts,” he added
Nine years & running
Winner traced the start of the women’s self-defense class to his involvement in training FRPD officers when the department was located in the old post office building at West Main Street and Luray Avenue. Without room in the cramped space of that building for self-defense training, Winner was offered the use of the Tap Etc. Dance Studio, at the time on East Main Street, by owner Kristin McCullough to hold that training.
“She offered her space for our training free of charge; the only thing she asked was if we could do a class for the dance students. I said, ‘Well, I’ve never done that, so let me do some research.’ I did the research, and we developed a class, and we’ve been developing it ever since. It’s kind of a work in progress,” Winner said, adding, “It’s been up and running for nine years. It’s more of a volunteer situation, and the Police Foundation bought us the mats and the pads. And now that we have the new facility, we do it at the police department pretty regularly now – at least once a quarter.
And when people ask, we do these things like when Suzi asked us here. Several weeks ago, we did one at New Hope Church for the Women’s Forum. So when people ask, if we can fit it into the schedule, we say ‘Yes,’” Winner said of accommodating additional requests for the no-cost classes such as Sunday’s at the Linden Company 4 Fire House.
Winner said he is the main departmental point of contact but pointed to his partnership with County Victim-Witness Coordinator Harris, who now works under the arm of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
“It’s as much her class as it is my class. She handles registration and most of the paperwork, the waivers you have to sign, the evaluations, and things like that. So, Kelliann does the scheduling.
When we do them at the police department, Kelliann is the point of contact,” Winner observed, adding that at special-request events the host organization would be that point of contact like Shiley was at Company 4’s event Sunday.
Of her participation, Harris told us, “I used to work as a sexual assault advocate at the Laurel Center for 2-1/2 years. So, I started self-defense with Jason through that process. And then, when I changed positions over to the director position for Victim-Witness, I just kept on doing it. We’ve got a great program running; it’s a great team effort. So, we just kept that going,” Harris concluded.
And “in the world, we live in today” as Sunday participant Melissa Eakle observed, that is probably not a bad idea.