September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:On Sept. 11th, 2001, I was on a flight to Philadelphia, PA. It was approximately 10:00 a.m. -- about one hour since the plane took off from Mitchell Field in Milwaukee Wisconsin. It was a beautiful morning -- not a cloud in the sky. The flight was perfectly smooth. I happed to notice that we were gradually descending, and yet I knew we couldn't possibly be in Philadelphia already so I asked the flight attendant why we were descending. She said we were almost there (hard for me to believe) but in actuality, we were somewhere over the state of Ohio. Seconds later the Captain made an announcement, which validated my suspicion about descending so soon. He said that we would be making an unscheduled stop in Canton, OH because the FAA has instructed him to land the plane for reasons not yet known. Very shortly thereafter, we were on the ground. There was absolutely no panic or worry from the passengers.

Once the plane had landed I called my boss in Chicago. Because of the fact that I was on my way to a Penn State Career Fair, he needed to know that I might not get there as scheduled. I told my boss I would call back when I had more information. As soon I hung-up, the phone rang. My colleague in Wisconsin was worried about me. She informed me about the WTC and the possibility of a terrorist attack. I then relayed the information to the other passengers around me. Everyone remained calm.

In the airport, everyone watched the news in the lounge - - pilots, flight attendants, passengers, etc. I remember seeing the towers burning...it all seemed unbelievable. Camera crews started to arrive at the airport, along with the National Guard and other security personnel. I heard that all flights might be suspended, so I thought that perhaps I should rent a car. People were already lined up at the rental car counters and I needed to decide very quickly.

Meanwhile, my fianc?' was at work in Chicago watching the news. He was worried. He thought he heard that one of the flights originated in Chicago, and he also thought that my flight originated in Chicago. When he tried to call all the circuits were busy, so it took a couple hours before he knew that I was safe.

The FAA grounded all flights. I drove to Penn State and all the while listened to the news about the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania. The death toll kept rising. It was unbelievable. I wondered if there would be any other attacks. I didn?t know if I was safe. I didn?t understand what this was all about. It was crazy.

Many companies didn't show for the career fair. If I remember correctly, I believe the classes were cancelled for the day. A lot of students didn't show for the career fair. A lot of my time was spent in the break room, watching T.V.

I drove home a couple days later -- 13 hours straight. A minor inconvenience in comparison to others - - I was fortunate to be alive and safe. On my way home, signs of patriotism were everywhere - - cars, toll-way signs, windows. Stores sold out of U.S. flags that week.

I don't personally know anyone who died on 9/11, but I still cry when I see pictures and read the stories. I'm especially sad for children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children. I don't think there could be a greater loss than losing one of my own children, but the suffering for everyone is too great to measure in any case, I'm sure of that. I will never forget 9/11 and I'll always remember the sadness and suffering that it caused.

Beth Panka
Gurnee, IL
Written September 2003


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