A 10-foot steel beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York is part of the South King Fire and Rescue’s memorial honoring the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

A 10-foot steel beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York is part of the South King Fire and Rescue’s memorial honoring the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Readers and community members share memories of 9/11

Federal Way residents reflect on where they were when the 2001 terror attacks happened.

  • Saturday, September 11, 2021 9:37am
  • News

Where were you when the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks happened?

“My husband Jack and I were in Rome, Italy. We had just toured the Vatican and were walking back to our hotel when I noticed people staring at a TV screen in an open-air bar. I wondered what they were so intent on, so walked in to look for myself, only to see the first plane crashing into the first tower. We watched a bit and decided we should get back to our hotel so we could watch further news. Upon arriving back at our hotel, we were able to watch the only English speaking channel to learn additional information. The next morning, there was a letter posted in the hotel lobby to all Americans, telling us how very sorry they were to have had this happen in our country. While we were unable to ‘read’ newspapers, we saw plenty of pictures in the papers that said it all. We were not affected by the no-fly period of time following the attack, as we had just arrived, but others were delayed leaving Italy to return home. When we did return home, our flight was only half full and we were all treated very respectfully. Of note were all the police and armed service members with machine guns in the airports and the heightened security.”

Linda Butcher, Federal Way resident

“September 11, 2001 was our 30th anniversary. Our daughters had thrown a surprise 30th anniversary party the previous Sunday. On 9/11/2001 we were getting ready to head out the door to work — me to Illahee Junior High as the principal and my wife Darlene to Enterprise Elementary as a para-educator. Since that day, we have avoided ‘celebrating’ our anniversary. This year we will be gathering our immediate family to recognize our 50th year of marriage. Seeing planes flying into the Twin Towers will be forever etched into our minds.”

Randy Kaczor, Federal Way resident

“I was born and raised in New York and still lived there on 9/11/01. I was 25 and working for an insurance company at the time. I remember driving to work and hearing that an airplane crashed into one of the towers thinking, ‘How could they not have seen that building?’ When I got to work, one of my coworkers told me that another airplane had hit the other tower and people were saying it was a terrorist attack. It took a lot for me to understand and it wasn’t really sinking in. This country had been so peaceful throughout my life until that date. My office was right next to an airport on Long Island, so we were told to go home for our own safety. Then what was happening started to affect all New Yorkers pretty rapidly. We all knew people who died or someone who was there as part of the rescue mission. My dad and uncle were NYC firemen who spent days on end with barely any sleep to help dig through rubble and look for survivors. My stepmom was a NYC police officer. My aunt was a nurse. My best friend was a state trooper. They were all there for days… weeks on end. So our lives changed drastically for a long time. One of my good friends lost his dad in tower one. Because of that day, his entire career path changed. He’s now a NYC fireman. We all supported each other in some way. We were all proud New Yorkers but we were all even more proud to be Americans. There were no politics… it’s the last time I remember all of us being on the same team. As a born and raised New Yorker, I’ll never forget that day.”

– Rob McDonough, Federal Way resident

“On 9/11, my husband and I were planning to go to the Puyallup fair that day, so we were sleeping in. The phone rang and it was my daughter Sarah calling from her work. ‘Mom, something bad is happening in New York. I think the World Trade Center is on fire.’ I walked downstairs and turned on Good Morning America. I stood frozen as I watched smoke coming from the first tower. I was trying to make sense of what the commentators were saying. ‘Fire. Reports of a plane hitting the build. First responders.’ None of it made any sense. I was grieving the loss of life and about to go back upstairs to get my husband, who was a fire protection specialist, when a video feed over the chatter showed another plane fly right into the second tower. I started yelling at the commentator, ‘Shut up! Didn’t you just see that? What are you still talking about?’ My husband came flying downstairs and we watched in horror as both buildings were belching smoke and then the towers gave way. Sarah came home from work and the three of us sat side by side all day, switching from one channel to another trying to make sense of what had happened. Besides, the second plane other images stick in my mind. Lesley Stahl running barefoot toward the World Trade Center for the story. Elizabeth Vagus who was in Washington DC hiding in a building trying to report on the third plane which hit the Pentagon. I knew she was pregnant and probably scared out of her mind but she kept doing her job. As evening came, my daughter said she wanted to go to church. We heard there was a prayer service going on at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. The roads were eerily empty. We had no problems finding a parking spot. We went in and just sat. I felt empty, grieving for the lives lost and the families torn apart. JFK’s assassination, the Challenger disaster, and now 9/11 are the three touchstone moments of my life. Those times that I knew, nothing would ever be the same.”

– Debra M. Kraft MD, Federal Way resident

“In NYC. I walked all the way home from Lower Manhattan to Inwood. No cars on the roads. Folks huddled around TVs on street corners. Eerily quiet except for the F-16s low flying over my building. Still have my shoes all covered in debris. I can’t clean them or throw them out.”

– Holly Slyter Rose, Federal Way resident

“I commuted from Federal Way to Preston in those days. I had just changed from Hwy 18 to 90 when my dad called my cell phone. He rarely ever had to call me. He said a plane crashed into one of the NY towers (first plane). I honestly thought he was joking but he would never have made a joke of something so heinous. He wanted to make sure I heard it from him first. (radio in my car didn’t work well in that area) At work, we were all glued to the small TV in the break room – of course no phones were ringing – I heard the Capitol building was evacuated and a plane struck the Pentagon. I had relatives working in both places. Terrified for them. All ended up safe, but knew people who perished in the Pentagon. There’s a Pentagon victim who was very close to my age and had my first & middle name. I got to see her bench in 2010 at the Pentagon with my relatives. My relative who worked at the Pentagon narrowly missed being killed that day. His entire staff, other than one other person, were all killed in the attack.”

– Ann Hart, Federal Way resident

“I was beginning my career in Early Childhood Education and was teaching a preschool class, followed by swim lessons. I remember watching the news and thinking I have to get to the kids at work. The images and information kept playing in my head all morning. When it was time for swim lessons, I remember crying, but the kids could not tell. I was in the water with them. It was a long and very quiet day. It felt like the whole USA was silent for days. No planes in the air. It was kind of like when the pandemic first hit. Just quiet. I come from a military family. I remember calling parent, grandparents, and friends that served in the Army and Marine Corp. They all knew this was going to be a game-changer. My mom at the time was working for Alaska Airlines; everyone was shaken. I was also fearful for the Muslim community. The deep fear in the air was palpable, and I didn’t want that energy causing harm like it does when people are paralyzed by fear. It was an event that changed American. Just like this Pandemic, it will forever change who we are and how we relate to each other.”

– Luckisha Phillips, Federal Way resident

I took a redeye out of SeaTac on September 10, 2001. I was meeting my grandparents in Pittsburgh where they lived and we were going to get on a flight to New York and then fly on to Nantucket. I was accompanying my grandparents because they were shutting down their summer home on Nantucket and my grandfather was in a wheelchair (going through dialysis every other day) so could not go on their own. I am originally from Nantucket so was also going to take the opportunity to visit with my dad. On a side note, my ex-husband gave me a ride to SeaTac that night and saw me to the gate. The gate agent didn’t ask me for my ID as I was boarding. I turned to my ex and said, ‘Remember that if anything happens to me.’ He laughed. After everything that happened, he told me he would never laugh at me like that again. At the point that I landed in Pittsburgh on the morning of the 11th, I wasn’t aware that anything had happened. I met up with my aunt and my grandparents in the airport. Once we were settled, my aunt left to drive back to her house in Shaler Township. My grandparents and I boarded our flight to La Guardia. Right before we should have been pushing away from the gate, I started hearing people around me talk about there ‘being an explosion in their building.’ I then noticed others on their phones and was wondering what the heck was going on since we were supposed to be taking off. At some point, the flight attendant announced that we would be exiting the aircraft. They did not tell us what had happened; only that there was a delay on the La Guardia end of the flight that would delay our takeoff. At some point after we unboarded, it became apparent that the flight to La Guardia would not be leaving (they still hadn’t told us what had happened). Many of us got in line to get on a different flight to Logan Airport. While I was standing in line, my ex-husband called me and asked me where I was. That’s when I found out about the planes in New York. I immediately called my aunt. My cousin answered the phone and let me know that she was already on her way back to the airport. I told my grandparents about what had happened and then proceeded to gather all of our bags (which were being taken off of the plane). As we were getting in my aunt’s car, she told us about Flight 93. I remember just sitting in the back seat in tears. I spent the next 10 days at my grandparents’ in Pittsburgh and ultimately took a train back to Seattle. I will be forever grateful that the flight from Pittsburgh never took off that day.”

– Shawn K. Harju, Federal Way resident

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Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Part of South King Fire and Rescue’s memorial honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11.

Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror Part of South King Fire and Rescue’s memorial honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11.

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