The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

September 11, 2011

9/11: 'Almost like the world paused'

ENID — Everyone can remember where they were when they heard about the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

On that day, Americans realized the country was not as safe as it was thought to be.

Mayor Bill Shewey was working at Central National Bank on Sept. 11, 2001. He watched a television in the lobby and saw the events developing. Shewey’s son lived in Washington, D.C., and worked in a mall near the Pentagon. He called and said a plane had been flown into the Pentagon, he was leaving and did not know where he was going.

“We didn’t hear from him until a day later because the telephones were jammed,” he said.

Shewey recalled an empty feeling as he watched the fires and the planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. He did not know what caused it or why it was happening. He was more concerned when he heard about the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

“It was a very sad day,” he said.

In the 10 years since the attack, Shewey said he believes Americans are more security- conscious in every aspect — in their daily lives, work lives and in the country’s military. Americans are more alert and Shewey says rightly so.

There have been changes in Enid because the whole country is more security conscious, he said, knowing something like that can happen on American soil. Shewey said he has changed personally. We cannot take things for granted, he said, and there is an empty feeling knowing it did happen.

“There are bad things you don’t anticipate. It makes you less secure about traveling overseas. It makes you a lot more aware of it,” he said.

Shewey still keeps up with Middle East politics and said he appreciates the freedom Americans have.

“I don’t know if we have less freedom, but I think we have more appreciation for it,” he said.

Molly Helm is marketing director for Wymer-Brownlee, but 10 years ago she worked for Advance Foods. Her office was in the Messer-Bowers building, which houses a number of offices, mostly insurance. She was talking to a sales representative who was originally from New York City, and he was describing what was happening.

“He is, “Oh God the towers just went down,’ and I didn’t believe him,” she said.

The workers in the building gathered in the break room to watch what was happening. She said they were all shocked.

“It was almost like the world paused. Nothing else happened and there was this horrible sadness. It redefined what community is,” she said.

Helm was scheduled to fly to New York City the following day, Sept. 12, to attend a culinary school, but did not go. However, she said through the tragedy the nation came together and life was more about being an American than being from a particular state or area. She said the event impacted people’s values. Oklahomans had been through a similar experience on a smaller scale — the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City — and realize what taking care of people is all about.

“Enid has always been that way, and New York was a nicer place after that,” she said.

A lesson from the experience tells her we don’t control anything and kindness matters, and helping someone can change things.

“We get to spend each day one time, spend it wisely,” she said.

Mike Stuber, a member of Enid City Commission, was operating his own business at the time and was out on appointments all day. He heard about the attack on the car radio, and an employee mentioned it later that another plane had struck the second World Trade Center tower.

“Then I knew it was no accident,” he said.

Stuber recalls being in shock. As he went to people’s homes during the day they were glued to the television. Two of his appointments canceled.

“Nothing like this has happened in my life,” he said. “It was like a sucker punch where the wind gets knocked out of you. Then anger sets in.”

In the 10 years since the attacks Stuber has seen mostly changes at airports and the amount of security people go through when they fly. He is more cautious at large events where there are many people. He noticed Vance Air Force Base increased its security with new gates and driving blocks, as well as other changes.

Stuber now is in the security business and said he looks at things more carefully. He designs and sells security systems for Pioneer Telephone, and out of habit looks at the security needs of places he goes. His children had no pre-9/11 experience, which saddens him a little.

Personally, Stuber pays more attention to world news and takes increased notice of military issues and basically does not take things for granted.

“We are not immune to violence. There are people who don’t like our way of life and we should always be attentive and keep our guard up to protect ourselves,” he said.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson was a finance officer at Central National Bank in 2001. He recalls everyone gathering around the television in the bank and watching events as they happened. He saw the second plane strike the towers.

“We were all shocked,” he said. “ I was in disbelief until I saw it and watched the second plane crashed into the towers. Then I truly knew it was not an accident.”

One of his most vivid memories is how the Enid community really rallied together. He recalls business marquees in town bearing messages about patriotism and sympathy for the victims and their families. It was a tragedy that united the community and the nation, he said.

“I think we’re all changed. We all have had a new awareness of the dangers that are out there, a new appreciation for how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken from you,” Anderson said. “There is a stronger sense of patriotism and appreciation for the men and women who serve in our armed forces.”

The country also has changed, he said, with people realizing we are not isolated or immune from the dangers of someone attacking the country. We have been made aware of those dangers, and we pay closer attention to things that do not seem normal.

“Hopefully, the changes have been for the better,” he said.

Anderson said America is as free as it was on Sept. 10, 2001, but we recognize there are some things we have to put up with to enjoy those freedoms. American has learned there is evil in the world and there are people who choose to harm innocent people in order to make a political statement. Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, Americans heard about suicide bombers in other parts of the world, but it did not have any real impact in the U.S., he said.

“Now we know that’s real and can happen, and it does happen,” he said.

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