Twenty Years Ago: Never Forget

Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Students at Cassville High School led a flag-raising ceremony three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, raising the flag, then lowering it to half-mast to honor those who died. File photo/Cassville Democrat

In 2001, life for many of us in our southern Barry County communities was much different.

In March of that year, former Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt fired the gun for Opening Day at Roaring River State Park, and one of the top lunkers of the opener weighed in at 3.6 pounds.

Richard Asbill, former Cassville superintendent, was middle school principal at the time and had been hired to be the assistant superintendent in the fall. The Cassville baseball team won a Big 8 Championship that spring.

Barry County Boy Scout Troop No. 76 salutes the American flag, which was flown at half-mast days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. File photo/Cassville Democrat

In Shell Knob, a $625,000 facility for the Central Crossing Fire Protection District was dedicated, a long wait after 11 months of construction.

The 2000 census numbers were released, showing Barry County’s population surpassed 30,000 for the first time, with Monett being the largest city with 7,396 and Cassville No. 2 with 2,890.

Technology was progressing in the area, as a portion of voters in August 2001 were the first to use optical scan machines, rather than the punch card that came under fire during the 2000 election of president George W. Bush.

Some other things haven’t changed, like how in July a flash flood swept through the city, hitting especially hard the 11th and Main Street area.

A big effort was also put in during the summer of 2001 to expand Highway 37/60 to four lanes, a campaign that proved successful and resulted in the passing lanes on Highway 37 today. The Cassville Branch Library was also being constructed at this time, with plans to be completed near the end of the calendar year.

By the end of August, students had returned to school and excitement was building for fall sports, especially the Cassville football opener against Berryville, Ark.

There is no doubt the deadline for the Sept. 12, 2001, edition of the Cassville Democrat was a frantic one, as the front page of the issue shows an Associated Press photo of the second World Trade Center tower being hit, and a story by Katie Johnson and Lisa Schlichtman localized the attack.

One of the main focuses was the run on gasoline, causing traffic delays across the area as people raced to the pumps fearing a shortage or price hike. The high school was described as eerie, as the day went on as normal, but with youth paying much more attention to the news and TVs kept on throughout the day.

In the community, blood drives were organized, and churches focused on prayer efforts. Much like the rest of the nation, Barry County was described as reacting to the attacks with “shock and disbelief.”

In the days following, Cassville students held a student-led flag-raising ceremony for the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. Throughout Barry County, flags were flown in support of the nation as it grieved.

On that infamous day at 7:59 a.m. EST, little did the residents know that numerous tragic events would go down in history. At this particular time American Airlines Flight 11 departed from Boston’s Logan International Airport, bound for Los Angeles, Calif. Aboard were 11 crew members, 81 passengers and five hijackers.

At 8:14 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 takes off from Boston, also headed for Los Angeles with nine crew members, 56 passengers and five hijackers. The flight has its final routine communication with air traffic controllers. Sixteen seconds later, controllers instruct the pilot to increase the plane’s altitude. However, there is no response, and all subsequent messages are unanswered. Investigators believe the plane is hijacked around this time.

At 8:19 a.m., a flight attendant on Flight 11 alerts American Airlines that the plane has been hijacked. She reports that the “cockpit is not answering” and that the hijackers reportedly have a bomb. In addition, two other flight attendants and a passenger have been stabbed.

At 8:20 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 departs from Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., bound for Los Angeles. The plane is carrying six crew members and 58 passengers, including five hijackers. Before boarding, three of the terrorists had set off the metal detectors when going through security, but all passed subsequent inspections.

At 8:21 a.m., the transponder on Flight 11 is turned off, making it difficult for air traffic controllers to monitor its course.

At 8:24 a.m., mistakenly broadcasted over the air traffic control channel instead of the public address system, Flight 11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, who was piloting the plane, announces, “We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you’ll be okay. We are returning to the airport.”

This was soon followed by “Nobody move. Everything will be okay. If you try to make any moves, you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.”

Air traffic controllers at Boston’s Logan Airport alerted the United States Military’s Northeast Air Defense Sector.

At 8:42 a.m., Flight 175 makes its last communication with air traffic controllers, reporting that during takeoff it heard a “suspicious transmission” from another airplane, later determined to be Flight 11. Around this time, Flight 175 is hijacked and some five minutes later its transponder code is changed. Also, United Airlines Flight 93 departs from Newark International Airport in New Jersey, headed to San Francisco, Calif. Aboard are seven crew members and 37 passengers including four hijackers. At this point, no aircraft has been notified that Flight 11 has been hijacked.

At 8:44 a.m., a second flight attendant on Flight 11 is on the phone with air officials and reports that the plane is in “rapid descent” and that it is flying “way too low.” The call then abruptly ends.

At 8:46 a.m., two military jets are ordered to depart from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod headed to New York.

At 8:46:40 a.m., hijackers on Flight 11 fly the airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact occurs between floors 93 and 99. The crash instantly kills hundreds, including all of those on board. Almost immediately, emergency responders are sent to the building.

At 8:51 a.m., Flight 175 changes from its assigned altitude, and repeated efforts by air traffic controllers to contact the plane are unsuccessful. Flight 77 has its last routine radio communication. It is believed the plane is hijacked shortly thereafter.

At 8:52 a.m, a flight attendant on Flight 175 calls United Airlines and informs officials that the plane has been hijacked and that both pilots are dead. During this time, passengers are also phoning friends and family. Passenger calls provided important information about the hijackings in subsequent investigations.

At 8:54 a.m., Flight 77 heads south from its assigned path, and two minutes later, hijackers turn off the plane’s transponder. Efforts to contact the aircraft are unsuccessful.

At 8:55 a.m., U.S. President George W. Bush, who has arrived at an elementary school in Sarasota, Fla., is told that a plane has struck the World Trade Center, though details are uncertain.

At 8:58 a.m., Flight 175 sets a course for New York City.

At 9 a.m., the Public Authority Police Department orders the evacuation of all civilians in the World Trade Center complex. A passenger on Flight 175 contacts his father for the second time that morning and reportedly tells him, “I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building. Don’t worry, dad, if it happens, it will be very fast.”

At 9:03:11 a.m., Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, striking between floors 77 and 85.

At 9:05 a.m., President Bush, who was reading to school children in a classroom, is told by his Chief of Staff Andrew Card that a second plane has struck the World Trade Center and that “America is under attack.”

At 9:25 a.m., Information is confirmed and the Federal Aviation Administration bars all civil aircraft in the United States from taking off.

At 9:29 a.m., Hijackers on Flight 93 attack the cockpit. “Mayday” is declared over a radio transmission and sounds of a physical struggle are heard. On another transmission seconds later, someone yells “get out of here.”

At 9:32 a.m., Controllers at Dulles observe an airplane traveling at a high rate of speed. Two minutes later officials at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport alert the Secret Service of a plane, later determined to be Flight 77, headed in the direction of the White House. A hijacker on Flight 93 announces, “Ladies and Gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit.”

Passengers begin making phone calls, and then they learned about the World Trade Center.

At 9:36 a.m., U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is evacuated to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, which is located under the White House.

At 9:37:46 a.m., Flight 77 hits the Pentagon in Virginia with the throttle set to maximum power. In addition to all those on the plane, 125 people on the ground and in the building are ultimately killed.

At 9:41 a.m., The transponder from Flight 93 is turned off.

At 9:42 a.m., The FAA orders all 4,546 civil aircraft flying in United States airspace to land.

At 9:55 a.m., President Bush departs Florida on Air Force One. Although the initial plan had been to return to Washington, D.C., safety and other concerns result in a change of destination to an air force base in Louisiana. He subsequently departed Louisiana and headed for Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where he stayed until 4:30 p.m. when he left for Washington, D.C.

At 9:57 a.m., Following a vote, passengers aboard Flight 93 rush the cockpit in an attempt to retake the plane. Despite a hijacker rolling the aircraft from side to side and up and down, the passengers continue to batter at the cockpit door.

At 9:59 a.m., The South Tower collapses.

At 10 a.m., All members of New York Fire Department are ordered to evacuate the North Tower. While many begin leaving, some do not hear the order, while others are unaware of its urgency. More than 400 emergency responders are ultimately killed in the WTC attacks.

At 10:02 a.m., With the passengers apparently close to breaching the cockpit door on Flight 93, the hijackers decide to “put it down” and begin a sharp descent.

At 10:03 a.m., Flight 93 crashes in a field near Shanksville, Penn., killing everyone on board. The plane would have reached Washington, D.C., its suspected destination, in about 20 minutes.

At 10:24 a.m., All transatlantic flights headed to the United States are diverted to Canada.

At 10:28 a.m., The North Tower collapses. In total, more than 2,700 people die at the World Trade Center complex.

At 11:02 a.m., New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani orders the evacuation of lower Manhattan.

At 12:16 p.m., U.S. airspace is clear after the last plane lands.

At 8:30 p.m., President George W. Bush addressed the country from the White House Oval Office. During the speech, he announced that “terrorists attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

After the attack, Americans came together, flags flew high, respect for our fellow man and military grew and gatherings in our churches increased. We honored those that lost their lives in an horrific tragedy. We need to remember how we felt and return to the honor and respect we had without having to have a tragedy force us into that mindset.

On Sept. 11, 2001, a total of 2,996 people were killed in the attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four airplanes. Citizens of 78 countries died in New York, Washington, D. C. and Pennsylvania. At the World Trade Center, 2,763 died after the two planes slammed into the twin towers.

We will never forget, and we hope that you do not forget either.

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