September 10, 2004

My town on Sept. 11

I can't remember what I was thinking about when I went to bed three years ago tonight, here in stately ideofact manor, in Arlington, Va. I was working on a writing project, and probably went to bed fairly late, because I remember I didn't wake up until about 8:30 the next morning (in those days, I could cruise into work at 10 a.m.).

It's silly to say that I'll never forget that day as long as I live -- none of us will, I imagine. But I got curious about what that morning was like in my hometown of Lancaster, Pa. Through the miracle of Nexis, I took a look at the stories that ran on page one of the morning newspaper, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal on Sept. 11:

Maxwell films 2d part of his Civil War trilogy

Hollywood at war: Local re-enactors help director refight Bull Run

Dead bird found in city has West Nile; First time virus has been detected here

Lancaster, Pa., is also blessed with an evening paper, the Lancaster New Era. There are plenty of stories in it from the world of Sept. 10, but they managed to get some stories from that day into the paper. Here's one from page A4:

HEADLINE: Local doctor's brother was pilot

BODY: A founding surgeon of the only open-heart surgery group in Lancaster has lost his brother in the waves of terrorism that have hit the country.

Dr. Mark Burlingame's brother, Capt. Charles Burlingame, was the pilot of the American Airlines flight that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

The local surgeon said today, "I am sure my brother died a hero. He was a man of tremendous integrity and patriotism. He loved his country. We grieve his loss and grieve for all of the families who lost loved ones today."

Mark Burlingame is one of four surgeons with Cardiothoracic Surgeons of Lancaster, which has offices on College Avenue and Duke Street.

Charles Burlingame, the pilot, lived in Herndon, Va., and is survived by his wife, Sheri, a daughter and a grandson.

He had been a U.S. Navy pilot and had been with American Airlines for nearly 20 years.

Here's another story, this one from page A5:

HEADLINE: Local workers stop, watch, worry

BYLINE: Tim Mekeel;Ad Crable


Work came to a halt in offices across Lancaster County this morning, as employees stopped to watch television newscasts of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The enormity and viciousness of the attacks left workers at Armstrong World Industries's headquarters "crying, in shock," said company spokesman Tom Burlington.

"Everyone is gathered around the TVs," he said.

Two planes crashed into New York City's World Trade Center, one hitting shortly before 9 a.m. and the other right around 9 a.m., causing the twin towers to collapse.

Explosions also rocked the Pentagon and State Department in Washington D.C., the Associated Press reported late this morning.

Recognizing that all of its employees would want to know about the attacks, Armstrong put news bulletins on its internal company Web site, Burlington said.

"We're doing our best to keep people updated. People need to know, and we want to get that information to them as soon as possible," he said.

At The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, news of the disaster quickly drew workers to the chamber's breakroom, where they turned on the organization's small TV.

"It's one of those moments that puts the daily grind in perspective," said chamber president Tom Baldrige, who said that about a dozen workers at any given time were gathered in front of the 11-inch screen.

Employees of Fulton Bank this morning turned on TVs and radios and scanned the Internet for the latest news on the attacks, said bank spokeswoman Laura Wakeley.

"People are concerned about what the heck is going on, and they're concerned about friends and family that may be in the (New York City) area," she said. "People are searching for information."

Customers continued to be served today, and employees continued to do their jobs, Wakeley noted, "but it's definitely not the same as usual."

Boy, is that ever an understatement. The paper's editorial board weren't asleep at the switch either: they show up on page A10:

HEADLINE: Find terrorists responsible for attacking our country


Terrorists today declared war on the United States. As of this writing, the full extent of the attacks on New York and Washington is not known, but this much is clear: something horrible has happened and someone must be held accountable for the horror.

Pretty good that -- but the last paragraph is at odds with the first, showing a Sept. 10 mentality:

But the primary response of the American people must be to urge our government to swiftly find and surely bring to justice the terrorists responsible for this outrage. This country must clean out their vile nests of intrigue and try the vermin in them for crimes against humanity.

I don't mean to criticize the editorialists -- they were working on deadline on an extraordinary day, and they probably were bumping West Nile virus and Civil War reenactment editorials to respond to the events of Sept. 11. Still, I don't recall Roosevelt suggesting that our goal was to try the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor in a court of law; the first paragraph is at odds with the last (and I'm far more sympathetic to the view expressed at the top than the bottom).

On page A5, we find,

HEADLINE: Prayer service set at 7 in Hempfield


In the wake of today's terrorist attacks, Hempfield United Methodist Church will hold a special prayer service tonight.

The prayer service will be held at 7 p.m. at the church, 3050 Marietta Ave., west of Lancaster.

It will be open to "anyone who's dealing with the tragedy, and wants to just come and pray," said the Rev. David Woolverton, a Hempfield UMC pastor.

The lead local story (which ran on A1 along the then-current AP story -- and note that there's still word of a bomb outside the State Department) focused on Lancaster County's response:

HEADLINE: Planes, trains halted here; schools closed

BYLINE: Cindy Stauffer


Planes were grounded. The county courthouse and city hall both closed early.

Just before midday, the county's emergency agency began calling all of the county's schools and recommending they close early.

The agency also called in extra staff.

Lancaster County put itself on alert today after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, another aircraft crashed near the Pentagon and a car bomb exploded outside the State Department in Washington D.C.

"We've never had a day like this in this nation's history," said Lancaster County Commissioner Paul Thibault.

A spokesman at the Lancaster Airport Control Tower said all planes in the nation were grounded as of 10 a.m., according to instructions from the Federal Aviation Administration.

When was the last time national air traffic was shut down? "Never," the spokesman said grimly, adding he did not know when planes would begin flying again.

In the county's emergency management office, officials were busy late this morning notifying schools, advising them to dismiss their students early.

Some districts said they would close. Others were not sure that was the best option for their students.

In the meantime, several districts already had gone on "lock-down," a state of heightened security. Also, worried parents were showing up at schools to pull out their children and take them home.

Red Rose Transit Authority buses and Amtrak trains were still running as of late this morning in Lancaster. However, a man who answered the telephone at the Amtrak station said he did not know what to expect as the day went on.

James Lutz, RRTA executive director, said, "We will continue to operate and provide services as long as customers need us. ... As long as stores and employers are open and we have customers who may need us, we will continue to operate."

People were on alert across the midstate region.

At the nearby Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Middletown, a vehicle barrier was erected in front of the main entrance and state police were posted outside.

Schools, airports, the courthouse closing, guards posted at TMI...the story goes on to note businesses that had closed, others that stayed open, dismissal times from county schools. My own alma mater refused to be intimidated:

At Hempfield, Superintendent Robert Wildasin said, "We have some parents who are requesting to come to school and pick up their children. We are honoring their request. We are not considering closing early. I'm not taking this at all lightly, but we feel we are safe here in school. We've practiced all these things and pray that we never have to use them."

Yes, except for gym, those junior high anti-terrorist commando training classes were the biggest sources of adolescent anxiety...

And that was it for the Sept. 11, 2001 edition of one of my two hometown newspapers. I wasn't there. I was here, and my perspective, I suppose, was a little different. I heard the roar of the engines of American Airlines Flight 77 as it passed over my roof, and moments later the explosion, which rattled our back windows. I went outside and saw black smoke curling up from the Pentagon, then walked back home, got out our flag, and flew it.

Posted by Ideofact at September 10, 2004 11:55 PM