ALBANY — There are some events in recent American history that people can easily recall where they were and what they were doing when the event occurred.
Older Americans can cite their memories of the assassination of former president John F. Kennedy.
The most prominent recent date that fits into this category is September 11, 2001.
The attack came on a Tuesday at an hour when most Americans were either at work or school.
Sherry Banghart, now a customer service representative, said she was at home when the hijacked commercial airlines slammed into New York City’s Twin Towers.
“The television was on and the program was interrupted all of a sudden by the news,” Banghart said. “I just remember calling my husband up and telling him a plane had hit the World Trade Center. It was right after that the second plane hit. It was a sad, sad day.”
Banghart said “her heart went out” to the people who began jumping from upper stories of the towers to avoid the heat of the intense fuel-fed flames.
“I went through a point where I was really mad that somebody would do this to us,” Banghart said, “and then I thought about the families and the kids of those poor people, and I got really depressed. I wanted the government to do something, but I didn’t know what.”
Margaret Brannan of Albany was waiting in a hospital at the time of the attacks. She was surrounded by friends and family who were with her to lend support after her husband had open heart surgery.
The morning news program on the waiting room television in the Intensive Care Unit alerted the crowd that something had happened.
“It was total disbelief,” Brannan said. “Everyone in the room just stood there open-mouthed and frozen. No one said a word. We watched it for a while before they let us see Leonard (her husband).
“A nurse noticed that his blood pressure had gone way up. (The medical team) didn’t even know yet about the attack. The nurse looked up and saw that Leonard was watching it on TV and she turned it off.”
Brannan said her husband was “back to normal” in about a month.
She’s still reminded of that day by increased security at airports and other places.
According to Brannan, the events of the day “didn’t diminish my faith, or love, or happiness, or the need to go to work. It didn’t make me unduly afraid.”
One of Brannan’s greatest impressions from the event came from the David Letterman show.
“He put off doing his show for a couple of weeks,” Brannon said. “But he was the first (comic) to come back. He said, ‘If we cannot laugh again, then they have won. And they cannot win.’ ”
Bob Prince, owner of The Barber Shop on Palmyra Road, found a television in time to see the second tower struck.
“Total disbelief, is what I felt. (The plane) made a circle and came around to the right,” Prince said, moving his hands to illustrate.
Prince said his feelings of anger escalated later that evening. It peaked, he said, “when the newscasters were talking, and they said Osama had been laughing and bragging about it. That’s when I got really angry. I knew that day we were going to war. I thought about Pearl Harbor and what those people went through.”
Prince is concerned about the 10th anniversary of the tragic event.
“They (the attackers) may want to put out the word to the world that they’re still a working terrorist organization,” he said.
Because he was occupied with caring for others, Greg Rowe, assistant director of the Dougherty County EMS, wasn’t watching when the towers were struck. His first recollection of the event was recorded clips of President George W. Bush reading a story to young school children.
Rowe said that as more graphic images began to appear on the news, including videos of the plane crashing into the second tower “over and over,” within a few minutes, he and his stunned coworkers realized it was real.
From that point on, the medical teams were busy taking care of patients, but continued to “sneak peaks at the news” whenever they could, Rowe said.
Perhaps because of his profession, Rowe’s thoughts went to the difficulties of the rescue operation in New York, and the dangers to police and firefighters there.
“I was still in disbelief,” Rowe said, “but my heart was breaking for all those people there who would have been stuck in their wheelchairs. And there was no telling how many people lost their lives trying to rescue them.”
Rowe will fly now “only when really necessary,” he says, preferring to travel by car.
He sees more potential danger in high population areas or events, like Disney World or the Superbowl, he says, though he takes more precautions in his own occupation as well.
“I tell (the EMTs) to be careful out there, like watching out for suspicious-looking suitcases and the like,” Rowe said. “It can happen here.”