County reflects on shock from watching tragedy

Published 9:49 am Friday, September 11, 2009

It was a day that many still can’t believe they actually witnessed. But millions did, via the television, as the first terrorist assault on the United States was broadcast live across the country.

Wendy Bowers of Ironton was at work in a meeting when someone burst in with the news. Everyone in the room reacted in the same way, Bowers recalled.

“We all laughed and thought it was a joke,” she said. Then reality set in and there was a rush to TVs to follow the unfolding horror.

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“All I could think of was to get to my family,” she said.

Then Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton was in his chambers at the courthouse when he heard. Soon as he watched he found a correlation with what was happening in New York and Washington, D.C. with history of the past century.

“I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “Then I went somewhere to try to take a look at it on the TV. It reminded me of the newsreel pictures of the devastation that was brought on London during the Second World War by the German bombing.”

Sheriff Jeff Lawless can still recall his reaction of outrage eight years ago as he, like all the country, was riveted to the television that day.

“I tried to watch on the Internet, but the Internet was so jammed,” he said. “I watched most of it from a television in the jail. It was the shock and disbelief, which turned to anger, that we could have such an attack on our country.”

It started out as a typical Tuesday morning at the reception desk of Bryant Health Care for Laura Henson of Chesapeake.

However, soon aides checking on residents brought back the news they were gleaning from the televisions throughout the center.

Quickly staff went to the activity room to watch the drama.

“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Henson said. “Wouldn’t think it would be going on, if they could do it in our country.”

It was typical for Harry Corns of Willow Wood to start his morning watching the television news shows. At first that Tuesday was no different.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Corns said. “Something like that to happen. It seemed so unreal to me.”

Like so many others, Chesapeake Dick Gilpin was at work.

Eight years ago, he was involved with an after school program for the district. He was at the Chesapeake board offices when he was called to watch a television.

“While we were watching there the other plane hit. I couldn’t believe it. I had a hard time understanding what was happening,” Gilpin said. “It was sickening.”

Now close to a decade later with a plethora of security restrictions now governing daily life, has the country learned any lessons from the tragedy?

“We have but have forgotten it already,” he said. “The anger and frustration we felt has turned to questioning ourselves, instead of the people who did it, transferring the blame.”