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A look back at coverage following the September 11 terrorist attacks

What started out as a clear sunny day in September 2001 quickly changed after four planes were hijacked and crashed into three buildings and a field.

Sept. 11, 2001 is a day scarred in everybody’s memory as a day of the worst tragedy to hit American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

On that Tuesday in September, the first hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 11, took off from Boston enroute to Los Angeles with 92 people on board.

Fifteen minutes later United Airlines Flight 175, with 65 people on board, left Boston, also enroute to Los Angeles.

At 8:19 a.m. Flight 11 was hijacked and the Federal Aviation Administration was notified.

The third plane that was hijacked took off at 8:20 a.m. with 64 people on board. American Airlines 77 took off from Dulles International Airport enroute to Los Angeles.

The final hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, took off from Newark International Airport with 44 people enroute to San Francisco.

At 8:46 a.m. time seemed to stop for those in the New York City area as Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Within a minute, the New York City police and fire departments were dispatched to the North Tower to begin their rescue operations.

Four minutes after the plane hit the tower, President George Bush was notified while speaking to an elementary class in Florida.

Seventeen minutes after the first plane hit the North Tower, flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

At 9:37 a.m. Flight 77 hit the Pentagon in Washington D.C. killing all on board and 125 inside.

Five minutes later the FAA, for the first time in history, grounded all flights.

The attacks forced the White House and the U.S. Capitol to be evacuated as a precaution.

Just before 10 a.m. the South Tower gave way and collapsed.

Flight 93 was hijacked and headed towards the next target when the group of passengers banded together and attempted to take the plane back.

The hijackers intentionally crashed the plane in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board.

One hundred and two minutes after the first plane struck the North Tower, it collapsed.

Rescue crews from all over the country came in hordes to help with the rescue and clean-up of the towers.

Twenty years later, the images of the planes striking the towers, the Pentagon and the site of the wrecked plane are still on the minds of people who witnessed the attacks.

For the 20th anniversary, the staff at Cherokee Messenger and Republican pulled the stories that ran in the papers following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Terrorists strike on American Soil, September 13, 2001

Panic causes run on gas at local pumps

A daring and deadly terrorist attack on the northeast United States had Cherokee residents gathering around television sets turned on at local businesses Tuesday morning.

By press time for the Messenger & Republican, the loss in life and property was unknown, although most agreed thousands of lives were lost and the damage to the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon would run in the billions of dollars.

The usual coffee crowd at Ms. Dottie’s Tuesday morning watched with the rest of the nation as first a single aircraft flew into the world’s tallest building in New York City, followed by a second and much larger passenger jet.

Later came news that at least four airplanes had been hijacked and used by the terrorists as suicide vehicles, taking not only the terrorists’ lives, but also the innocent passengers.

By noon word began to spread that the Middle East oilfields were shut down and that gasoline supplies would dry up.

That caused motorists all over Oklahoma to begin lining up at gasoline stations, including those in Cherokee.

Prices began to steadily increase, going over $2 a gallon by late afternoon. However, the price hike – or “gouging” – as some angry motorists called it, did not sway vehicle owners from filling their cars and trucks, and waiting in long lines to do it.

Gov. Frank Keating and Attorney Gen. Drew Edmondson issued a press release cautioning gas retailers against taking advantage of consumers in the wake of the terrorist attack.

“It is inexcusable for some gas stations to be price-gouging during this time of horror and tragedy,” said Keating.

Observers of the oil and gas industry, read the release from the governor, said that even when the price of oil increases by $1 a barrel, that typically translates into only a 3-cent hike at the pump.

Edmondson said his office is looking into reports of price-gouging.

From this corner

by Steve Booher

September 13, 2001

We are at war!

No longer can Americans expect to watch with indifference as acts of terror inflicted on nations as far from our shores.

We are in a war. It may not be officially declared by the president or Congress, but by all reasonable standards Americans are at risk and it’s time to reconsider our role as the world’s peacemaker.

Hindsight is so wonderful, but it can no longer afford that luxury to America’s leaders – the president and Congress – must show the resolve needed to take sides without remorse in the Middle East.

Osama Bin Laden has been given credit for the attack on Americans. His headquarters is Afghanistan, and despite areas of innocence from leaders in that country, America can only assume he works out of that nation with its blessing.

Our intelligence resources will or will not verify Bin Laden’s involvement, or whether the attack came from another direction. When the culprit is identified we should show no mercy in retribution.

This is no time for the weak heart, and certainly no time for Americans to turn the other cheek.

If this country is to ever again feel safe within its borders, we must be certain, quick and powerful in our resolve to find our enemy and destroy it.

We stand united behind our nation’s leaders.

A commute to work that one New Yorker won’t soon

forget, September 20, 2001

Personal accounts abound of people who narrowly missed being caught in the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster and of those who lost loved ones there.

Marguerite McMurtrey of Cherokee brought in an email she had exchanged with a niece in New York City a couple of hours after the planes crashed into the buildings.

Kristine Whitfield is the daughter of Diana Gower Whitfield, McMurtrey’s sister, and the granddaughter of Adeline Gower of Helena.

Whitfield works for Healthfirst at 25 Broadway, a 10-minute walk south of the WTC.

On her regular morning commute, she had come into the underground of the WTC on a train from New Jersey. She was evacuated between the hits of the first and second planes and walked north two miles to avoid the smoke. PATH is specifically designed for commuters to go back and forth from New Jersey to New York.

Following is the email conversation between McMurtrey and Whitfield.

McMurtrey: Do you usually get off there or did they evacuate everyone on the subway when the first plane hit?

Whitfield: I am in the building every day. I shop at the mall, eat lunch or dinner there sometimes, bank at Chase, take the PATH train to and from work. You live there and never leave, with all life sustained.

This morning at 8:55 a.m. I was coming from the basement on the huge set of escalators after just getting off the PATH Train, when about 10 policemen ran from behind me and passed, running up the escalator, yelling and yelling. I thought they were chasing a criminal.

Everyone then jogged calmly up the stairs, and we were motioned out of the north exit of the WTC concourse. (My office is south, so this annoyed me, I’d have to walk around the sets of buildings to get to work.)

When I stepped outside it was strange, there were little chips of concrete everywhere, just like I was walking through a construction site. Then people said to look up. I looked up and saw the burning North tower, 1WTC.

I worked a lot in this building about three years ago, and Whitfield’s account tells about her narrow escape.

The WTC is a set of seven buildings (twin towers WTC1 and WTC 2 are the most famous). The other buildings are not as tall, maybe 40 or so stories.

WTC 7 collapsed. WTC 3, 4, 5 and 6 are standing now. (Editor’s note: This was written before other structures fell on Wednesday.) WTC is hooked by pedestrian bridges over the West Side Highway, also called West Street, to the World Financial Center. It is all one huge complex of buildings.

At the base of the twin towers, on the first floor or concourse level, was a shopping mall with normal stores just like at any mall, restaurants, (with) Chase and Citi-bank  branches, etc.

It is also a central transportation center. In the basement there are three sets of subway lines which run through New York City only, and then the PATH train system, which runs under the Hudson River to various points in New Jersey.

The WTC was one of two main stations in New York I could tell there was a huge hole in the side, about 10-20 floors, around the 80-90 floors. There were orange flames, black smoke, debris and papers floating down.

The wind was out of the north and blowing south, so a huge billow was blowing right over my office (10 minutes south). I decided not to walk into all the smoke and turned and walked north on Broadway.

A few minutes later I heard a boom, and just started running. I thought maybe the top of the building fell off and wanted to get away as quickly as possible.

At this point I thought it was a bomb, no one on the street knew what was going on. I got about one mile north and turned west a few blocks and looked back down south and then saw two towers with holes and fires, not just one.

I heard a guy on the street say it was two American Airline planes and that sounded so ridiculous, it made me mad that he would make up stories like that.

I then walked about another mile north to the ad agency I work with, so I could use a phone (there was no cell signal due to all the people on them), use email, whatever in order to find out where Peter (her boyfriend) was, contact family, friends and colleagues. She was there when both of the buildings collapsed.

Peter got ahold of me somehow on my cell, he was at home in Battery Park City, (southwest of the WTC) and wasn’t able to get near work at 9 a.m. because of all the police. He worked in 7WTC, the last smaller building to fall.

All his power was out in the apartment, it was pitch black outside his windows from the smoke, so I kept the phone near the TV so he could hear what was going on.

They then evacuated his building. He walked through a lot of soot and smoke and met me at the ad agency. We then walked to several trains to try and get to NJ, but none were running, so we took an available train to Long Island to stay with his family.

McMurtrey: How did you get the two miles to the ad agency?

Whitfield: Walked.

McMurtrey: Is this the place where you used to work?

Whitfield: No, they are an ad agency, I am the client.

McMurtrey: Things must have really been chaos.

Whitfield: People were very calm, quiet, the streets were empty. Most people were just looking up with their mouths open in disbelief. The only sound was sirens.

Vehicles lined up for blocks to get to gasoline pumps at Cherokee’s service stations. Some grumbled about the price, but rolled up their windows and ran their air conditioners while waiting in line. Photo taken from the Sept. 13, 2001 Cherokee Messenger & Republican newspaper.

God Bless America – Employees at Farmers Exchange Bank in Cherokee set up their own “pocket of patriotism” following the terrorist act that took so many lives at the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon. Photo taken from the Sept. 20, 2001 Cherokee Messenger & Republican newspaper.

A trailer full of teddy bears is ready to leave Cherokee to go to Channel 9 in Oklahoma City, then on to New York City or Washington D.C., to help comfort the children caught up by last week’s tragedy. Each teddy bear has a tag saying, “With love from Cherokee, OK.” Pictured are Police Chief Paul Michael, City Manager Steven Vetter and employees Chuck Green and Curtis Kimminau. Photo taken from the Sept. 20, 2001 Cherokee Messenger & Republican newspaper.

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