Remembering Sept. 11

Published 8:25 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Selma is roughly 1,048 miles from New York, which would have put Cossie Walker a lot farther away from the World Trade Center seven years ago.

Instead, Sept. 11, 2001, found Walker, then a worker at Allcaine Printing near Hyde Park, about 17 blocks from the twin towers when the first terrorist-driven jet slammed into the north tower. He said the first hit felt like an earthquake.

“Traffic same to a stop, and it was all jammed up, so everybody jumped out of their cars and started running toward Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge.”

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Minutes later, Walker saw the second plane “hook around the back of the second tower and hit it.”

Then, he saw people jump out of the building.

“They looked like dots falling and eggs smacking on the pavement,” Walker said.

He kept running.

Later, he would discover a friend, Jimmy Smith, who worked in tower two, had died.

To this day, Walker will not enter a building above the third floor. He said he thought he could jump that far down.

Many people like Walker still remember vividly the sights, sounds and emotions of that day when lives changed in the blink of an eye.

Or so it seemed for Bridget Smiley.

At that time, she was a member of the Alabama National Guard and attended Wallace Community College. She had a 2-month old child.

“The father of my baby called and asked if I was watching television,” Smiley said. “He said, ‘You might want to sit down; it’s some stuff going on.’”

That stuff would mean eventual separation for Smiley and her daughter. The Selma resident became regular Army shortly after the terrorist attacks. Now, she’s a three-tour veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.

But that day, she said, “I just stared at the TV in awe. I couldn’t believe what happened. The first thing that came into my head is ‘we’re about to go to war.’”

Judi Kleitsch once flew to San Diego every December for the holidays. But she didn’t in 2001.

Kleitsch’s stepson called her the morning of 9/11 from San Diego to tell her of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“Of course the rest of the day was spent watching the television in absolute horror,” she said.

That day, not even children were immune from the pain.

Brandi Johnson was a seventh-grader at Martin Middle School. She had just entered history class, and someone had the television on.

“All I remember was I felt so sad because they said some man had called his wife while he was on the plane,” Johnson said. “I felt so sad.”

Sheridan Helms was a fourth-grader at Valley Grande Elementary School. “I didn’t understand why. I was scared. I thought they were going to come blow up everybody.”