Iowans share memories of that tragic day a decade
By Amber Williams
was sitting in a landscaping van, parked in
the Des Moines Masonic Cemetery — an eerily
fitting setting — when I learned of the attack
on America on Sept. 11, 2001. I heard it on
the radio, listening to Mancow's Morning Madhouse.
My first thought? "What a jerk. That's
nothing to joke about." So I switched the
It was no joke.
The weather was beautiful — perfect, almost.
It was just as peaceful and sunny in Des Moines
that Tuesday morning as it was in New York City.
Most everyone remembers where they were on that
seemingly serene morning a decade ago. Powerful
images depicted in newspapers and on TV remain
frozen in our minds: the second plane plummeting
into Tower 2; the people jumping from more than
100 stories up; the moments when both towers
crumbled to the ground; the suddenly silent
scene of dust and rubble after the buildings
vanished from the New York City skyline.
Yes, most everyone remembers where they were
that day. Here are a few of those memories as
told by local citizens.
A world changed forever
LeClere, 54, of West Des Moines, was taking
his two daughters to daycare on his way to work
at an advertising agency. He didn't learn of
the attacks on the Twin Towers until he got
to his office, where the TV was always on, he
"Both buildings were still standing when
I got there, and I watched the first building
come down. I thought it was an accident until
the second plane hit. I watched both buildings
"My first reaction when I saw the plane
hit was, ‘this is the beginning of the end —
the beginning of something really horrific,
and the end of life as we know it. This is going
to escalate into something really, really bad.'
LeClere watched TV all day in his office. A
couple of co-workers came in to watch with him,
but for the most part, he spent the day alone,
"Everybody was somewhat speechless. There
wasn't much talking going on throughout the
office. Some individuals didn't even acknowledge
it — I don't know if it was to keep their minds
off it, or what."
When he got home, LeClere said it still felt
like the world had changed. He watched the news
on TV with his wife, but at the same time, they
tried to keep the kids occupied doing other
things. They were too young to be exposed to
it all, he said.
"To me, the world changed drastically in
the course of a day. It stayed with me for a
long time after that, too. It still does. If
I see images of the Twin Towers going down,
it brings back a lot of anger and hatred."
"I don't feel like it's over. I wish it
wouldn't have taken so long to get Osama (Bin
Laden), but I know it's a very difficult task.
I still feel the world has changed — it's become
a more dangerous world. I hate to say it, but
I don't think it's going to get any better."
Prepare for anything
from Augusta, Ga., Tiphani Grimes, 22, was in
middle school when carnage and chaos ripped
through the streets of Manhattan. Nearly 800
miles south of New York City, Grimes and her
classmates were starting the day with science,
and they were already positioned in front of
the TV to watch an educational program as part
of the curriculum that day. The lesson they
learned was one they neither expected nor forgot,
as they watched in shock when the first plane
penetrated the World Trade Center.
"At first I was in disbelief. I had a child's
mind. Then I saw the panic and the police in
the streets, and it occurred to me that this
was real. I was in true shock. Being a kid,
the feeling of safety had gone out the window
— the ‘all the world is a dream; no one could
hurt America.' It brought war, violence and
But kids are kids, as it should be, and Grimes
admits, at school, among her peers, she and
her classmates naively made light of the heavy
"We were selfish — not thinking about the
rest of the world or how other people feel.
We were still wanting to play around and make
jokes. We were thinking about the football game
that was supposed to go on that night. But the
game got cancelled, and it became more real."
Gravity grabbed her when she arrived home that
afternoon, she said. Her parents were submerged
in the news, as the TV etched the images, retelling
the story as it echoed throughout the house.
"That's when I got scared. At school, there
were things they couldn't show and wouldn't
let us see. At home, it took things to another
level. The news showed the history behind the
attacks and the hatred toward America. It elevated
the situation. The pivotal moment was the ‘Shock
and Awe Attack' (President George W.) Bush did
— whatever that was. I don't even remember it
that well now, but I remember there was bombing,
and I thought, ‘if they can do that to that
country, they can do it to us.' There was more
destruction. My parents were panicking and talking
Being from a military family and living so close
to Fort Gordon Military Base, the Grimes family
mobilized, she said. They developed survival
kits and prepared for the worst.
"It was high anxiety. This was the big
unknown, and as a kid, my imagination ran wild.
We had to be prepared for anything. We went
into security mode. I pretended no one was out
there plotting against us just to create some
normalcy for myself."
But things were not normal, and Grimes found
herself constantly reminded of this, as her
parents continued to implement a strategic defense
plan for the family. They conferred with other
military families and with the nearby base for
advice on ways to be prepared for more attacks.
"It was about protecting our home and family
and being prepared for anything."
"I feel even more nervous. When Osama
bin Laden was killed, I just prayed. I feel
like an attack is going to happen. Even though
we have these organizations and defenses in
place, I feel like if they want to attack us,
they will. Sept.11 showed me there's hate in
the world, and there are kinks in our security
— that became a reality, instead of the idea
that ‘that will never happen to America.' It's
still there. There is tension, terrorism and
violence. People just have to be prepared, and
some military training is better than none.
I'm more on the lookout now. I create my own
the rest of the world, Nate Todd, 30, became
a TV addict the day of Sept. 11, 2001. He'd
just nestled into a day off, preparing to spend
some quality time with his couch and remote
control, when he saw the many stories of the
attacks consuming every minute on every channel.
His initial reaction: "Let's go to war."
"But that has changed in the last 10 years,
drastically," he said. "It got me
into politics. Instead of watching sports and
things like ‘American Idol' — I had no desire
— it was all history, politics and monetary
By about 2005, Todd admits, he might have developed
an obsession for the truth behind 9-11.
"I started looking into the events of what
happened — the details — instead of sitting
idly by and letting the media tell me what happened.
I started reading and researching on the Internet.
I literally watched hundreds of documentaries.
It changed my whole view on everything. At first,
I was for (George W.) Bush; I was for war, but
I was young and under-educated."
No matter how the information was spun, it came
down to the numbers, and they didn't add up,
he said. With a background in construction and
experience with blue prints, architecture and
engineering, the collapse of World Trade Center
7 literally baffled him beyond belief. Building
7, which is similar in size to a 47-story football
field, was a neighboring building at Ground
Zero. It was not struck by a jet that day, but
by 5:30 p.m., it was a pile of dust and rubble
just like its twin brothers. Todd says, facts
behind 7's dissolution were being suspiciously
overlooked by media.
"In the beginning, everyone just wrote
it off. But the way 7 came down, the official
story doesn't mention it, and the media don't
touch it — they barely even admit the building
exists. But the physics, the geometry and the
mathematics, it just doesn't add up."
So Todd took action by distributing 9-11 documentaries
and other documents to everyone he knew. Some
came back with questions of their own, like
his pastor at his church, while others refused
"My grandma doesn't want to believe it,
but I love the argument," he laughed. "It's
a big concept to try and explain. I think I
have an idea, but it's a much bigger picture.
Almost everyone in that administration is to
blame, in my eyes. Everybody blamed everybody
else, and then they all got promotions and even
more power granted to them. Meanwhile, it's
chipping away at our liberties and freedoms
by instilling fear. My only fear is that it
could lead to some form of slavery, and there
could be a day when people won't even know what
the Bill of Rights is, or what liberty truly
But rather than fear or hatred for our attackers,
Todd feels impassioned — a rejuvenated focus
on "the important things in life,"
such as his family and his health. While the
fear of terrorism lingers in the back of his
mind, like a kite stuck in a tree, it is not
an anxiety Todd's willing to entertain.
"Something could happen anytime, anywhere
— even while crossing the street. But more people
die of a bee sting every year than from terrorism.
So am I supposed to be afraid every time I see
"It just makes me want to tell people:
keep being informed; look at it from every angle;
consider all theories; and question everything,
especially from mainstream media sources. The
Internet and alternative media are good starting
points for information. I don't watch TV, and
I don't watch the news anymore. I read a lot
more books, and I try to look at all the information
— weed through everything — in order to figure
out which is the best truth. Ten years later,
I want to see a big push for the truth.
"I support our first responders, the victims
and their families and military personnel, but
I don't support the war or the leaders behind
it. It's like the big bully on the school yard
walking around punching out the little guys.
Eventually one of those little guys, or a group
of them, will rise up and take the bully out.
If China came here and did to us what we're
doing to the Middle Eastern countries, we'd
be arming our children, too. Every time our
bombs kill civilians, we're recruiting more
enemies — more potential terrorists.
"We have a good idea here in America and
the system to keep it that way, but it's not
perfect. But it's the best model of freedom
in the world. Am I a proud American? Yes. I'm
a proud father and a proud husband, but I'm
not proud of what's going on right now."
"Now I'm very passionate about everything
I do every day I'm alive. I look at my kids,
and it brings a tear to my eye sometimes. I'm
more passionate about my family and life in
general. My wife and my three kids — making
their future better than mine, that became my
A dangerous world
Is the world as dangerous as it ever was, and
did 9-11 make us more aware? Or, is the world
a more dangerous place as a result of the tragedy
that took the lives of nearly 3,000 regular
folks just starting the work day, and the thousands
we've lost in battle over the last 10 years?
A decade has gone by, and although we occupy
our minds and lives with daily duties and routines,
9-11 is not forgotten by any means. The day
will stay in our memories and scar our history
forever. 9-11 is remembered. CV
9/11 Day of service and remembrance project
to support military youth
250 volunteers expected at Gray's Lake to promote
community service and commemorate the 10th anniversary
of Sept. 11, 2001 attacks
What: First annual September 11th Day of Service
and Remembrance Community Walk. Before engaging
in a two-mile walk around Gray's Lake "in
the shoes of a soldier," volunteers will
participate in a tribute event to honor the
lives and legacies of the heroes and victims
of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Volunteers will
also participate in a large-scale service project
to benefit military children and youth.
When: Sept. 11, 2011, noon – 3 p.m.
Where: Gray's Lake, 2101 Fleur Drive, Des Moines.
Who: Approximately 250 volunteers of all ages
and abilities, including local first responders,
military families, veterans and community members,
are invited to attend this tribute event featuring
keynote speakers, retired Brigadier General
Doug Pierce, who is the current mayor of Norwalk
and Commander of the 132nd Fighter Wing during
the 9-11 attacks, and Lucas Beenken, Wright
County Supervisor and Iraq War veteran.
For more information: Contact Melissa Simmermaker,
Des Moines AmeriCorps Alums President, at 725-3187
Facebook Comments (left unedited)
Tragedy struck our nation almost a decade ago,
but we have not forgotten in those 10 years
— where we were, who we were with, how it made
us feel, how we reacted. Everyone old enough
to remember Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 has his
or her own story to tell. What is yours? What
do you remember about 9-11?
It was my 18th birthday. I was sitting in 1st
period at Lincoln High School, having a wonderful
morning. When the bell rang to head to 2nd period,
we still didn't known just then what had happened.
I walked into my 2nd period class and sat ...down
by the television just in time to see the second
plane crash into the second tower. We spent
the day crowded around elevisions in various
classrooms watching the horror of the day unfold.
I remember calling my dad to wake him up and
make him turn on the television. Going out to
dinner that night for my birthday and watching
even more coverage on the tv's in there. To
think that our country was so vulnerable to
an attack like that caused a fear that went
through the entire nation but it also brought
a sense of pride in our country that today seems
to have faded. I only wish that the amazing
show of Patriotism and mutual respect that every
American showed one another in the following
weeks were still here today. I'm not sure when
that disappeared or why, but we should not have
to wait for another tragedy to show our love
for one another. God Bless America
I was working at farm bureau that day listening
to the radio when I looked up from my work and
noticed all the women in my area crying . I
had no idea what was happening. People were
starting to panic lots wanted to go home . When
I got home that night I saw the devestation
for the first time. Got goosebumps thinking
about that day.
Senior year of HS in current events class when
I find out. Had open period for the next 2 hours
and spent it in the senior lounge with my class
mates watching the news. I remember it being
so quiet while we all watched. Some people cried
but mostly we sat in stunned silence. I was
panicking because my dad was at Aberdeen military
base in Maryland and I couldn't reach him due
to the cell phones going down. As long as I
live I will remember that morning.
I was working at Dun & Bradstreet in DM.
They had an office in the towers so all the
managers were crying. They sent us home to be
with our families. I watched the day unfold
in the diner with my Uncle Larry, cousin Bill
and Baby Melanie in Redfield.
Diana Miller Casteel
I was working at hy-vac with the chickens,in
a building by myself listening to the radio.
At the time i heard the news they didnt know
yet that it was air planes they thought that
we were being bombed in different places all
at once. What an eerie feeling that was because
they didnt know what or where the next one was
going to hit. I never thought that i would ever
hear of so much evil here in the U. S. A. I
also remember how clear and quiet our skies
was for a week or so after that because they
wouldnt allow any air traffic in the skies.
That was really eerie to.
We were at the hospital with my Dad who is
no longer here RIP to them all and never forget