Sep 12, 2006

Looking ahead, remembering the past

by Cory Palmer
 
Since 2001, the month of September has brought with it memories of a national tragedy. The attacks on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the World Trade Center in New York City and the United Airlines Flight 93 plane crash near Shanksville, Penn. were the greatest tragedy on American soil in years. Everyone remembers what they were doing on that fateful day when they found out what had happened. But for some at Liberty, it hit closer to home.

Khalil Reed is a senior sports management major. In 2001, he was attending high school in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York. He heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center minutes after it happened.

“My teacher allowed us to go outside to watch.  My school sits on top of a hill, and we were able to look straight across the Hudson River to watch the first tower burn.”

Reed and his classmates watched in disbelief, wondering how the firefighters would manage to extinguish the flames. Soon after, they saw another plane heading toward the other tower.

“The plane picked up speed and crashed into the second building.  Everyone screamed, people were crying, and that’s when I realized that this was a planned attack,” recalled Reed.

The students suffered another shock minutes later as the towers began to collapse.

“By this time, we were all in a panic,” Reed said. “Our principal released school for the day, because most of the students’ parents worked at the World Trade Center.”

Fortunately, the members of Reed’s family were all safe. His mother picked him up from school, and they picked up his younger sister and went home to wait for his older brother, an EMT for Jersey City Medical Center, to arrive.

“He was called in to transport injured victims to the hospital. Later that night, he volunteered in the search and rescue in New York City. He returned home a few hours later covered in soot.”
One year later, Reed’s family decided to move to Virginia Beach.

“My mom didn’t feel safe living in that region anymore,” he said. “I still get goose bumps thinking about that day.”

Perhaps the closest person to the Sept. 11 attacks at Liberty is LUPD patrol supervisor Joseph Vega. Vega was a detective with NYPD. At the time, he worked in the crime lab as a firearms examiner. 

“I was at my work station in the lab and everyone else was in the lounge having their coffee when one of my colleagues ran into the lab and informed me that a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers,” Vega said. “I think the NYPD knew that this was a terrorist attack within the first 30 minutes.”

Less than an hour later, Vega was informed that all personnel at the lab would be sent to the World Trade Center to assist the Fire Department of New York in evacuating the towers. Vega called his wife to inform her that he would be going.

“My wife cried and implored me not to go,” said Vega. “Fearing that we might never see each other again we said our goodbyes; it was the hardest thing I ever had to do.”

When he arrived at the site, he discovered it was complete chaos.

“All communications were inoperable. Police and fire radios, cell phones and landlines,” recounted Vega. “People in the lobby of the tower that I was in were running. Some were in shock and became statues, so filled with fear and disbelief that they froze.”

Vega spent the next 72 hours at the site assisting in the evacuation and search and rescue operations.
“I was so consumed in trying to help evacuate the tower that the three days seemed to be one,” Vega said.

“When I finally made it home, the horror finally set in.  I had periods of crying for no reason, nightmares and feelings of hopelessness and anger.  But my wife helped me through and watched over me.  She is the reason for my being able to overcome the trauma of this event,” he said.
 
Contact Cory Palmer at cpalmer2@liberty.edu.
 

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