Published Thu, Sep 8, 2011 2:48 pm Dateline
Updated Fri, Sep 9, 2011 12:51 pm
For many, it's hard to believe it was 10 years ago.
A decade has passed since we heard the unthinkable had happened in New York City. Terrorists piloted four commercial airliners and used them to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Thousands were killed.
Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle wasn't the head of the department on September 11, 2001. But, he was at work when he first got word.
"I was here at the police department on duty. I was actually in my office paying bills. I was the administrative lieutenant at the time. Someone passed by and asked if I heard a commuter plane crashed into the World Trade Center and that it was on fire. They asked if I wanted to go downstairs where the TV was, in the breifing room, and check it out," said Pyle.
He said he remembered watching The Today Show and that no one was really sure what was happening.
"They were saying a pilot could become disoriented and it was all speculation. We were all kinda watching the TV and debated what could have happened. I think someone in our group suggested maybe it was intentional. Then, on live TV, we watched the plane crash into the second tower," said Plye. "I felt shock and anger. I turned around to the group that was in there and said 'We're under attack.'"
Pyle said he's been invited to several events at churches around Athens to mark the anniversary. He says he will attend the ones he can. Pyle says it's a day that's very personal for those who serve in law enforcement because of the number of police officers and firefighters that were killed.
For Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl, the day was personal for a different reason. He once called New York City home.
"I was working in the Biochemistry building at Ohio University, Dr. Marty Tuck’s lab, doing some DNA sequence analysis when a grad student walked in and said that the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane," said Wiehl. "At that point I turned on the radio, but went on with my work until the second plane crash."
"I don’t recall all the details, but remember someone found a TV and we watched the smoke and fire of the towers. I went home early for lunch and to watch it at home alone. As a former New Yorker, I had been to the observation deck of the WTC," said Wiehl. "I do remember while watching the TV and looking at the clear blue sky marred by the streaming smoke of the towers, that normally this would be a beautiful September day in the city and that it is always easier to tear down and destroy than build."
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn was also in college at the time.
"I was an undergraduate student at Ohio State and was also taking a class at Ohio University," said Blackburn. "I had spent the night at my mom's house. She came in my room and told me what had happened. I turned on the TV and said 'Mom, they have it on video and the towers were already on fire,' I realized then it was the second plane."
Ten years later, many in Athens and around the country are still struggling to grasp that realization.