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Four years later, events of 9/11 still feel like nightmare

The ringing telephone jolted me awake by the second ring.

"Hello," I managed to grumble out of my barely awakened throat.

"Kevin, you need to get up and come to the office quickly. Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. They think it's terrorists. Get here as quick as you can."

I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock. It was a little after 8:30 a.m. Central and the clock was still armed. I wasn't supposed to be at work for at least a couple of more hours - the evening shift in the newsroom.

A quick shower and I flipped on the TV as I was fastening my belt and climbing into my socks and shoes.

"We have a report from Washington that smoke has been seen coming from near the Pentagon," the television announcer said.

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

"This isn't right," I thought. "Things like this don't happen here."

I rushed through downtown Natchez, Miss., to the newspaper office. Inside I found everyone in the building huddled around my desk, staring with disbelief at the images flickering on the TV set overhead.

News reports began confirming the events.

The White House was evacuated.

Images of horrified government workers running from the Pentagon, the White House and other government buildings flickered across the nation's TV screens.

A few minutes later and the first tower collapsed on itself and with it a bit of America's feeling of safety.

Another jet crashed in Pennsylvania.

Eventually, the second tower collapsed.

No one knew where President Bush was for a couple of hours, which in itself seems disconcerting. The most visible man in the country was nowhere to be found.

Armed military jets patrolled the skies over New York and Washington. With each pass the reality that the nation was now at war becomes more real.

What on earth was happening?

The fear of not knowing what was going on was one of the most disturbing parts of the 9-11 attacks.

Within days the nation would realize more as we learned more details about the coordinated attacks on our country.

Four years later and the horrific memories of 9-11 are still close to the surface: Video footage showing the jets piercing the building in a fiery spectacle. Victims jumping from the twin towers, choosing self-controlled death over the unknowns of facing the fire. Smoke billowing from the towers, scarring the New York skyline. Shaken New Yorkers running from the fast-moving cloud of debris.

We all remember where we were on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I just wish another telephone would ring and wake me up from the four-year nightmare left in its wake.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441 ext. 12 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@irontontribune.com.