‘Where were you when the world stopped turning’


TORRINGTON – Sept. 11, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous events which took place in New York City. On that day, two airplanes piloted by terrorists flew large commercial airliners into the World Trade Center.

Alan Jackson’s song, “Where were you (when the world stopped turning),” describes many of the feelings and emotions experienced by Americans on that day.  

Many people today remember seeing the flames from the towers, the collapse of the towers and constant newsreel running with updates of the condition of the buildings. The nation was both shocked and confused by what they saw, but each American came together in unity that day. 

The Telegram reached out to a few people to ask where they were and how the events of that day changed their lives.

• Matt Johnson, Torrington Police Chief – “I remember it distinctly because I was in my second or third week of the police academy. We were learning all about what it meant to be a police officer, and the instructor turned on the news and we watched it all morning. We watched police officers running in and all of the other horrific things that happened that day. I will never forget the feeling that I had; knowing that is what would be expected of me and having never ending respect for those folks for making the sacrifices that they did on that day.

“As a professional; it’s a standard to live by. For a willingness to put other people’s safety above your own and a willingness to run to trouble instead of away from it.

“As a person; it serves as a reminder of our fragility. We never know how much time we have. We have to be willing to live in the present and invest in relationships that matter.”

• Heather Saul, Public Health Coordinator and U.S. Army soldier – “I was at my house for my oldest daughter, Anyssa’s, second birthday. I was on my way to the store to get some balloons and flowers for her for her birthday when my twin sister called from Chicago and said, ‘have you been watching the news?’ When I turned it on at that time, the second plane hit the second tower and I was numb. In my head, at that time, I thought, when that second plane hit, it was a terrorist attack. Then it scared me because of my family in Chicago. At that point, being in the military, I knew we were going to be in a fight, we put ourselves on guard. The hardest part was celebrating life for my daughter when you saw life being taken away by these random acts of violence. It has impacted me in many different ways. I have deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and fought for our country. It allowed me to go and pursue working with public health and working with my community as a whole. I continue to serve my country and there might be another deployment coming up for me in October. But yes, it has affected me and the choices I have made; going back to school to get my bachelor’s in nursing and to work with CDC and FEMA, and to protect my community as a whole, and as a combat lifesaver has made me grow into who I am today…also, happy birthday, Anyssa!”

• Shelly Duncan, Wyoming House of Representatives and realtor, “I remember clearly what was going on. I was in Casper, Wyoming, and I was in my living room getting my oldest, who is now 32 years old, and he was getting ready to go to junior high and I was getting ready to take him to school. We were watching television, and we had satellite television, so it was a live feed from New York. We sat there and we were watching as we were waiting for everybody to load up to take them to school. I remember sitting there and then we sat on the coffee table with disbelief, thinking we were watching a movie trailer or something and not really understanding what we were watching, and it was a live feed as we watched the first building collapse. Shortly after watching the second building, the actual plane fly into the second building. I remember sitting down and watching as it was happening, not understanding what we were watching, and then understanding shortly after that this was live. I had to get my wits about me and explain to my son that we have to get you to school. I remember going back and watching in disbelief that it was a terrorist attack. Flash forward and a lot of different things have happened. My father was an airline pilot for a commercial airline and had decided to take a job, just days before, for the FAA. The company that he ended up leaving, never went back in the air after 9/11. My husband was deployed twice to Iraq and years and years later, my oldest son, who sat there and watched the towers go down, ended up going to Afghanistan, kind of full circle. My husband is a 22-year veteran, as well as a firefighter for the Wyoming Air National Guard. A lot of his training was through the Department of Defense for firefighting, and he trained with people who were with that event, the FDNY and different things. I remember when he was in Baghdad, they did this run with ruck sacks, and they carried cards with different FDNY first responders in their pockets. They ran this entire race to commemorate those guys. We are always remembering the first responders. We are always cognizant of those patriots. In fact, I am leaving on Friday to welcome Riley McCollum because his dad was a classmate of mine his husband in Jackson, so I am going out to Jackson when Riley’s body is returned. 9/11 just keeps popping up; Riley was born the year of 9/11, so there is a lot of symbolism every time I turn around. I am really cognizant and aware of events and things that happen. I see right now how far away we are from how we came together and I really long for us coming together like we did at that time. We seem to pit against each other rather coming together and banning together. It’s sad it takes tragedies to do that. I’m very aware of lots and lots of symbolism; it constantly circles back around. 

• Keith Kautz, Wyoming Supreme Court Justice – “I remember where I was. I remember watching it on tv. It’s a very curious thing because I was a district judge in Torrington when that happened. But I was actually here in Cheyenne at the Supreme Court building for a meeting. Someone, I believe it was Holly Hansen, the court administrator, broke into the meeting and said there’s been this big incident in New York City, and somebody crashed a plane into one of the World Trade Center’s towers and it is on tv. We got it on a little teeny black and white tv in one of the conference rooms and a whole bunch of us went in there and watched it. We watched it the whole morning. How can you have a meeting and focus on some administrative business while all that was going on? At first, the first reaction that I remember that I had, was, ‘what a horrible mistake. How could someone have flown, mistakenly flown that airplane into a building?’ Then it happened again, and it dawned on me that that probably wasn’t a mistake. Boy, that changed the whole thing as to what is going on. They were telling us that all the airports had been closed and all the planes had been grounded in the United States, so we were thinking there was probably more to this, then as the day unfolded, he heard about the other stuff. It was horrific. It was unbelievable. In times prior to that, you could go a lot of places like in Washington, D.C. or New York City and we had a free open feeling, and everybody felt protected and safe; you didn’t even have a second thought about safety. After that, I recall being in Washington, D.C., and seeing armed guards or military guys on the top of every building and you have to go through medical detectors and the whole attitude of life is a little less open and a little less free, and in some regards, a lot less free. It’s probably a necessary response to terrorism, is that we have to look out for it. It brings it home that it could happen to us where we had not considered that before.”

• Tabitha Lambert, Lingle Fire and Emergency Medical Services – “I was on my way to school when I found out. I heard it over the Jeep radio and was in shock. I can’t say it was what directly made me want to be one of the helpers, but it contributed to me wanting to be one of the helpers. The biggest thing for me was a quote from Fred Rogers, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

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