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Valley responded to terror attacks

20 years ago, 2001

Less than 24 hours had passed since the first news trickled in of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York City. What unfolded over those 24 hours was a constant stream of questions, few answers and hope that survivors might be found.

It seemed as though every word in the Sept. 12, 2001, issue of The Vindicator was dedicated to covering the terrorist attacks of the previous day. Articles focused on the FBI’s investigations, blood donors lining up in Austintown to help the American Red Cross, local Pearl Harbor veterans recalling their memories from 60 years before, and advice from a school psychologist about how to talk to children about the events.

Religious services were held throughout the Mahoning Valley, including a night of hymns and prayers at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Youngstown. Representatives from local churches, Temple Rodef Shalom, and the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown prayed together before an interfaith audience of their congregants.

“The faith community here, while divided theologically, is united in the suffering felt around the country,” stated the Rev. Robert F. Shonholz of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Youngstown. The vigil at St. Mark’s was standing room-only, with more than 1,200 people in attendance.

“We should share with them the truth,” was the suggestion of Dr. Francene Haymon of Slippery Rock University’s Student Counseling Center as school officials across the area struggled with how to share the news with their students.

“Being 17, I’ve been thinking about how in one year, I could be going to war,” remarked J. R. Jackson, then a junior at Lisbon High School.

Jackson was not sure if war would break out, but stated, “I suppose we would be the ones to fight it, my age group, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I always just planned on graduating from high school and struggling to get into college and going about my life. I never considered having to fight a war.”

Nicole Rogenski, then a junior at Ursuline High School, echoed the fears.

“Just the thought of going to war, you just read about it in history books as something that happened so long ago. Now it’s a possibility. People we know could have to go through it.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of travelers were stranded at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna. Six jets, all bound for other parts of the country, were diverted to the airport around 10 a.m. Sept. 11. Most of the passengers were taken to nearby hotels on school buses, but several were detained and questioned by the FBI. No arrests were made but officers from the Youngstown Police Department’s bomb squad spent about six hours examining the aircrafts.

The nearly three-hour wait time to donate blood did not deter people as they struggled to find parking near the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center in Austintown.

The line formed early on Tuesday afternoon and Nancy Cox, donor recruitment representative, noted that, “the response has been wonderful and reassures us that people feel as if we are all in this together and are willing to help in every way.”

Many of those lining up were first time blood donors who noted the imperative need in the wake of such a crisis.

Boardman’s Michael Tringhese had been in New York City for only three days, training for his new job at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

“We were on a break on the 61st floor in Tower 2 when the first plane hit Tower 1. I saw fire and paper and wreckage falling. Nobody waited to find out what happened.” He and several other trainees made their way down the stairs, finally emerging outside about 10 minutes later. Several other Valley natives recalled those initial moments, including former U.S. Congressman Lyle Williams. Williams was on the George Washington Parkway outside Washington, D.C., when he saw a fire in the distance. “I got out of my car and everyone was running. I heard from people that a plane hit the Pentagon. The smoke was horrendous. It was an eerie, eerie feeling.”

Another Vindicator headline simply read, “Where were you when?” Several people recalled the moment they learned of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination as compared to the moment they learned about the events of Sept. 11. One line will always ring true for those of us who remember that Tuesday morning: “In years to come, Americans will ask one another where they were when planes rammed the World Trade Center.”

• Compiled from the archives of The Vindicator by Traci Manning, MVHS curator of education.

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