Emily Jones said the events of Sept. 9, 2001 “brought us all tighter for a brief moment. All too brief.”
Reba Thompson said she was teaching first graders and just happened to walk by the school office, where the principal was “glued to the tv” in shock. The door was open and she motioned for Thompson to come in.
“I prayed all day about how to tell-explain-all while making them feel ‘safe’ in their government apartments next door,” Thompson said. “Thirty minutes before the final school bell we gathered in a circle, criss-cross for carpet time as I held back the tears. And yes, we prayed. It was tough.”
Thompson said the next morning, instead of giggling busy kids, she witnessed burdened frightened children.
Bob Graves was hired by Merrill Lynch in 1977 and would spend three months that year training and working at the corporate headquarters at One Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan. Graves remembers seeing The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center thinking they were invincible.
Graves said the World Trade Center was a huge complex with shopping malls and commuter trains deep under two identical skyscrapers that were the pride of the New York skyline.
“Every working day, hundreds of thousands would arrive to their jobs at the financial center of the world, Wall Street,” Graves said. “For this small-town boy, I imagined myself just one ant in this enormous array of fire ant mounds.”
From One Liberty Plaza it was a short walk to the World Trade Center. Graves made the walk often.
“Sometimes I would buy a hotdog from a street vendor and sit and look up as the clouds seemed to touch the tops of these massive structures,” Graves said. “One day, I took the three different elevators it took to reach the top and the observation deck of one of the Towers. There I could see all of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, The George Washington Bridge, and I looked down saw the roof of One Liberty Plaza about 30 stories below. It was then I realized how high in the sky I was because One Liberty Plaza was three times taller than the tallest building in Mississippi.”
On September 11, 2001, Graves was tying his shoes, getting ready another Monday at his Merrill Lynch office in downtown Jackson when he heard the news. It is 24 years after he had been a rookie in training in New York, now he is a seasoned veteran at Merrill Lynch.
The TV was tuned to CNBC and as usual, and he was glimpsing at it for a hint of what the day might hold when one of the hosts said, “There appears to be a fire in one of the Towers at the World Trade Center.”
One of the CNBC cameras focused on the building and it was apparent that smoke was coming from one of the upper floors.
“My first thought was, this could be bad, but those buildings are new, modern and equipped with sprinkler systems and along with the New York Fire Department, this will be extinguished shortly,” Graves said.
Then, one of the announcers said, “There is a rumor, and I repeat only a rumor, that an airplane has crashed into the World Trade Tower.”
“Things had now gone from extremely serious to deadly serious,” Graves said. “I left home for my office.”
Several of Graves’ coworker were at work that morning. They watched as another airplane flew into the second Tower, as human beings jumped to their death, as the first Tower struck collapsed, then the second.
“I thought of all those many thousands that had come to work that morning, from the hot dog street vendor to the Wall Street executives in their chauffeur driven limousines,” Graves said. “I thought about the people I knew that worked for Merrill, some I knew personally, others I knew by their voice over the phone. I thought about some of the guys I knew that were floor traders at the New York Stock exchange.”
Once in a phone conversation one of these fellows asked Graves, “What are you eating?” He had a mouth full of a Goo Goo. He learned that day that “Yankees” have never heard of Goo Goos.
“I sent them a case of Goo Goos,” Graves said. “They loved them. Today I was sending prayers for them, not Goo Goos. Weeks later I learned they were all ok. I sent them a case of Moon Pies.”
When he left his office in Jackson, very few people were on the streets. There were large numbers of security personnel around the Federal Building and the Governor’s Mansion.
“I have no idea what time it might have been,” Graves said. “I do recall it was a very long day. Our nation had been attacked by terrorists, another day of infamy. We were at war. We still are.”