This story was originally published on Sept. 12, 2001, in the Watauga Democrat — one day after the events of Sept. 11.
Two hijacked commercial aircraft crashed into the skyline-dominating twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City Tuesday morning.
A third hijacked aircraft crashed into the helicopter landing pad area of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
A fourth aircraft went down near Pittsburgh, Pa.
Both of the twin towers and a building in the same complex collapsed.
The area of the Pentagon nearest to the landing pad crash site sustained heavy fire and impact damage.
Over the next several hours following the crashes, unsubstantiated, and ultimately false, reports filtered in of additional bombing attacks as the nation struggled to get a handle on the developing disasters.
Current estimates of dead wounded do not exist as rescue workers both fight the fires and attempt to get close to the rubble to search. Hospitals in the New York City area have, according to national reports, been overwhelmed by the injured, dead and dying.
The only estimate that has been released is that over 50,000 people work in the twin towers of the World Trade Center and, at the time of the first attack at 8:45 a.m., it is reasonable to assume many employees were at their desk beginning a work day.
While no one at the national level appears ready to attribute responsibility, the crashes appear to be part of an orchestrated and planned terrorist assault on the highly visible landmarks of U.S. culture and society.
Sonny Sweet of the Watauga Chapter of the American Red Cross likened the current actions, concerns and frustrations of local relief organizations to the moments and hours immediately following the Oklahoma City bombing.
He said that everyone is doing damage analysis; a time when local area disaster relief organizations scramble, like the rest of the nation, to obtain information and answers and prepare to provide help in any way they can.
“The local chapter (Red Cross) has received no requests for assistance as of yet,” Sweet said, “but I anticipated requests for both blood and mental health disaster specialists in the days to come. Right now everyone is doing damage assessment to determine what is needed.”
“Our chapter has a trailer loaded with cots and blankets to help with shelter operations. We’ve been put on alert to be prepared to send it to either New York or D.C.,” he said.
Sweet said that the Watauga Red Cross Chapter has three certified disaster mental health professionals capable of responding if called and needed. He anticipated that they would be both called and needed.
The Charlotte Red Cross office, according to Sweet, would handle and coordinate any requests for aid or assistance.
Cindy Harris, public affairs specialist with the Charlotte Red Cross headquarters, said that her office was currently gathering resources to be able to respond if called.
“We’re gathering our disaster mental health specialists and bringing them on board to help with local concerns and to deal with the crisis. We are also preparing to send them to the sites if the National Red Cross office requests it.”
Harris said that the Charlotte airport had been closed by national directive.
“We are preparing to open the Charlotte shelters to take in people stranded by the closing,” Harris said. “We are also taking baby food and supplies to the airport to help people stranded with small children.
“We have extended our blood donation hours until 6 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) and will be taking blood donations from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. tomorrow. We sent 600 units of blood to Baltimore, Md., this morning by ground transportation because we can’t get into New York or Washington by air.”
Twenty-seven members of the North Carolina Baptist Men have arrived in the Washington, D.C. area. They left Boone at 11 p.m. Tuesday and arrived in Washington at 8:40 a.m. Wednesday.
The team, coming from the mountain region, includes local residents Dan Norman, Graydon Eggers, Charlie and Trisha Fox, Ed Brown, Larry Woodrow, Jane Evans, Charles McKnight, Scott Prewitt, Rob Holton and Skip Greene.
Holton said on arrival someone had hung an American flag in the gash on the side of the Pentagon.
The team expects to be in the D.C. area until at least Saturday.
The Baptist Men’s team (comprised of 23 men and four women) specializes in disaster aid and have recently provided assistance to flood victims in West Virginia.
Greene, local team leader, said that they will set up a field kitchen to prepare between 10,000 to 20,000 meals per day for disaster victims.
Greene said that he did not know where they would be based but assumed it would be near the disaster area.
“We will set up under the direction of the Red Cross, prepare the meals and the Red Cross will truck them where needed in emergency response vehicles.” Greene said. “We also have team members who help with rebuilding, water purification and child care.”
Greene said that his team has building contractors, grading contractors, teachers, truck drivers and a fire chief.
“All of our members are very talented,” he said.
Greene cut short the interview Tuesday night to clear the phone line. It was late and his team was waiting to hear from the Red Cross with “GO” orders. At 11 p.m. Tuesday the group departed for the Pentagon area.
Jason Williams, emergency management technician with the Watauga County Office of Emergency Management, said that the western branch headquarters of the Office of Emergency Management has placed Watauga County on call to provide needed and requested assistance but said that there was no need to worry at the moment.
Watauga County Sheriff Red Lyons said that the sheriff’s office had received no specific requests or instructions and stood prepared to provide sister relief and support as needed. He said that the sheriff’s office would evaluate any requests and respond accordingly.
Capt. Regan Pyatt, commanding officer of the 1451st Transportation Company of the N.C. Army National Guard headquartered in Boone, said that this unit, a medium truck company tasked with hauling bulk material and cargo, had not been put on any heightened state of alert as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Pyatt referred all future inquiries to N.C. National Guard Headquarters in Raleigh and said, “If they call, we’ll be ready.”
Appalachian State University maintains a rooming house for student and faculty use in both New York City and Washington, D.C.
Jane Nicholson, director of the ASU News Service, said that her office had been in touch with both facilities by phone and email and all of the students staying in them were safe and unharmed. She said that the students in the New York facilities were asked, by ASU, to remain in the house, known as App Loft, and “were not venturing out into the streets.”
“At the current time no students are registered in the Washington App house,” she said.
According to Nicholson, App Loft is within two miles of the World Trade Center site.
ASU Sports Information Director Kelby Siler announced that the Tuesday men’s soccer match at Winthrop and the women’s volleyball game at NC State had been canceled. The women’s soccer game at home against UNC Asheville was also canceled.
Watauga High School Athletic Director Marc Payne announced that the girl’s volleyball at McDowell and the girl’s tennis match at Hickory had been canceled as well as three seventh and eighth grade football games scheduled for Tuesday.
Payne said that coaches were asked to shorten Tuesday practices.
Liz Pinske from the Samaritan’s Purse public affairs office said that the relief organization had no current plans to respond to the incidents, but would address the situation at a Tuesday afternoon meeting when more information would become known.
Samaritan’s Purse has responded to natural and manmade disasters around the world and, according to spokesman Jeremy Blume, has a disaster response team capable of assisting if called.
Blume said that Samaritan’s Purse was currently checking the security of staff around the world and that local staff has been called together by organization president Franklin Graham for prayer.