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In years to come, Americans will ask one another where they were when planes rammed the World Trade



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



In years to come, Americans will ask one another where they were when planes rammed the World Trade Center.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The death of the president 38 years ago virtually closed down this sea-to-shining-sea nation and plunged it into mourning.

The assassination of JFK also spawned the phrase still heard today: "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?"

Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., virtually closed down the nation and plunged it into mourning for untold numbers of dead. The events -- four commercial airliners hijacked -- has stirred a relatively unused emotion for most Americans: fear.

As with the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, federal institutions, schools, courts, stores and more closed their doors early. It would have been easier for newscasters 38 years ago and now to list what remained open or what evening events hadn't been canceled.

Unlike 1963, Tuesday's attack resulted in an unprecedented halt in nearly all public transportation in the cities under siege and put a stop to air travel nationwide.

Tuesday spawned a new phrase Americans will exchange for years to come: "Where were you when hijacked planes rammed the World Trade Center and Pentagon?"

Details: The attacks -- just before and after 9 a.m. -- brought back the memories of the April 19, 1995, terrorist bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City at 9:03 a.m. With 168 dead, the blast stood, until Tuesday, as the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Those who recall where they were when the news came that JFK had died in a Dallas hospital from a rifle shot to the head, will never forget the long bleak November weekend that followed, glued to network newscasts on 21-inch black-and-white TVs. The drama unfolded with each passing hour.

The 38-year leap in technology has allowed the world to watch on 24-hour cable news shows -- in color and on big-screen TVs -- the devastation jetliners can do when aimed like missiles at two of America's most recognizable landmarks.

The drama continues to unfold with each passing hour.

Recollections: "I was standing at my threading machine at work and the gentleman who came in to relieve me told me the president had been shot," said Joe Collins, 74, of Youngstown's East Side. "It just floored me, very upsetting -- being Irish Catholic like him."

Tuesday, Collins was at a McDonald's having coffee with friends when he heard about the terrorist attack. "I was shocked, just shocked," he said.

At home, his wife, MaryJo, was listening to the Dan Ryan radio talk show on WKBN. The program was interrupted for news that hijacked planes had rammed the World Trade Center and Pentagon and another had plummeted in western Pennsylvania.

"I came running downstairs to find Joe and turn on the TV. He had already gone to McDonald's," she said. "It's terrible. It's unbelievable. Where's our security that was on top of this?"

The 72-year-old woman thought back to how hard she cried when a good friend called and woke her to tell her the president was dead.

"Naturally, I got up right away and put the television on and cried and cried and cried," Collins said. "My mother worked at Livingston's; that's where she was when she heard our dear president died."

Schools: In 1963, schools throughout the city used public address systems to let boys and girls know what had taken place in Dallas. Some who had been seated in an 11th-grade typing class at Chaney High School vividly recall staring wide-eyed at the public address speaker above the door, listening to the shocking news.

"I was at St. Nicholas Elementary School in Struthers, and the nun interrupted the class and told us to quit writing -- that there would be an announcement," said Robert Sharp, a state fire marshal. "The pastor came on the PA and said the president had been shot and passed away."

Sharp, 50, remembered the sorrow in his house that weekend and how his parents watched TV nonstop for news about the assassination. He recalled that a trip to Hills Department Store in the Lincoln Knolls Plaza proved fruitless because it, like so many other stores around town, had closed.

Tuesday morning, Sharp was driving to Columbus to the state fire marshal's office but didn't have his car radio on. He pulled into a rest stop near Mansfield for coffee around 9:30 -- and that's where news of the terrorist attacks reached him.

"When I walked in, everyone was talking about it," Sharp said. "Then I put the radio on, and when I got to the office [in Columbus] found they were closing the state buildings and we were reassigned back to our districts to be on standby. We were braced for anything that would happen in the state."

meade@vindy.com




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