How could it have happened? It was the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century, and this new 100 years had just got started.
September is my favorite weather month, and I’ll never forget that sunny Tuesday morning. As dawn broke, I came down Highway 108, atop Palmer Mountain, picking up cans and arrived home exhausted. As usual, I flipped on the T.V. while eating breakfast and saw the live broadcast and knew something had happened, but the details were sketchy. After getting out of bed that afternoon, the mind-boggling images changed my world and yours for the foreseeable future.
“I was a 30-year-old college student among a bunch of 18 year olds, and had worked the night before at the post office,” says Seann Lewis. “Sitting in the classroom, I saw some of the students turn the T.V. on and that irritated me because I knew the professor wouldn’t like it when he came in. Then they told me what was happening.”
Lewis graduated as a parachutist from the Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and is a Desert Storm veteran. He’s the recipient of the 2010 Palmer Veterans Appreciation Award.
Pam Henry Meeks, longtime teacher’s aide and bookkeeper at Palmer Elementary School, was on the job that morning.
“I was in Shalonda Braden’s classroom, helping with a reading program, when our Principal Sadie Smartt came in. Of course, it was all over television, and she told me to go to the office and help Mary Ruth Rogers because the phone was ringing off the hook. The pictures of the attack were horrible.”
Donna Basham, of Tracy City, was Grundy County Administrator of Elections, as she still is today. The disbelief that something like that could happen expressed by a colleague still sticks in her mind all these years later.
When Basham got to the courthouse and told General Sessions Judge Earlene Speer that one of the suicide planes had hit the Pentagon, the judge said, “No, that’s not true. They are telling everything!”
Willene Campbell, of Pelham, was watching T.V. at home that morning and saw the events as they unfolded.
“When the second plane hit the Twin Towers, it looked like you were watching a tape of the first plane. That’s when everyone realized this wasn’t an accident, we were being attacked.
But, Campbell also saw history being made years earlier on Sunday morning, November 24, 1963. She was watching a live television broadcast when Jack Ruby fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Two days earlier, on Friday, November 22, 1963, Oswald had assassinated President John F. Kennedy by firing a rifle from the Texas School Book Depository Building in downtown Dallas, Texas.
Time is no respecter of persons and regardless of your station in life, its endless cycle keeps rolling and offers no opportunity to change the past in personal lives or in the lives of nations.
Fifteen years have passed since that September morning. Its aftermath is felt every day, not only in America, but around the world. However, the haunting question remains, since this wasn’t a military operation carried out by elite forces – how could our government been so asleep at the wheel?