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ABOUT TOWN: Remembering September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001: A day the country lost its innocence. On the 10th Anniversary of these terrorist attacks, Stoughton residents and town officials share their thoughts and memories from that fateful day in our nation's history.

About Town invited residents of Stoughton and town officials, through Facebook and personal emails, to share their remembrances of , and to on how they felt the events of that day might have affected our country. 

Here are their responses, along with my own, and the singer/songwriter of a song closely linked with the horrific September morning ten years ago:

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John Fernandez: I was doing a police detail at the North [Dawe] School on voting day. During lunch break, I brought back a small portable TV so that the poll workers could see what was on the news.

We made sure any children that happen to pass by, did not see the TV. In the afternoon when I left, I looked up and saw no commercial planes flying, just one military fighter plane flying kind of low towards Boston. Kind of a scary feeling.

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Lisa Berenson: I was working at an engineering firm in Stoughton at the time. My daughter was in the middle school down the street. I remember walking by the conference room and a bunch of my co-workers were standing around gasping with horrified looks on their faces. I asked what was happening and one said, "The World Trade Center...a plane flew into the twin towers...terrorists."

Our country was under attack. I was stunned, frozen, angry. I remember seeing the gray billowing smoke from the impact against that cobalt blue September sky. Then they showed shots of people jumping out of windows, others running down the street. The news coverage was confusing. No one really seemed to know what was happening.

Then they said another plane was headed for the Pentagon. I remember feeling I had to get to my child. I tried to call the middle school but the phone lines were jammed. Thankfully, my daughter borrowed someone's cell phone and called me. She said they were being dismissed early. I remember driving down the streets of Stoughton on my way to the middle school. American flags were flying everywhere--on homes and cars. I never felt prouder to be an American.

I found my daughter in a sea of children. It was chaotic. We finally made it back to our home and turned on the TV. We watched silently the footage of the towers collapsing. I cried as the news came in of how many lost their lives just thinking they were headed to work for another usual day at the office. The events of 9/11 changed this country in a profound way. I think many of us don't feel safe traveling but more importantly our American dream crumbled the day the towers fell.

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Donna Locurto: I was at the Stoughton VNA that day and we couldn't believe a plane hit the first tower. We all thought, what a horrible accident and our hearts and prayers were going out to all involved. I left the office to visit a patient and heard about the second plane hitting the second tower while I was driving and knew instinctively that we were under attack.

I had to drive home and began crying, for all of the horror and because I knew my son and many of our children would be deployed and possibly lose their lives to protect our country. My son was deployed and returned safely. I wish every parent, wife and child could say the same. I feel that 911 left us all with a feeling of vulnerability but also brought us resilience.

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Jim Derochea: I vividly remember every moment of the day like it was yesterday.  The initial sketchy news around a pro-ported plane hitting one of the twin towers, the subsequent confusion from fellow co-workers when the other tower was hit and the realization that "we" were being attacked when the Pentagon was hit.  

I remember my son Trevor's questions about whether "we" (Stoughton) would be attacked and him angrily wanting to "bomb them right back" and my then 7 year old daughter Kasey's confusion over why someone didn't like us.  

I was coaching Stoyac Soccer that Fall and I remember the eerie silence of having no planes flying overhead as usual during practices that week. But what I recall the most, was the sense of sadness, yet sheer pride as the details of Flight 93 emerged...that civilians had unselfishly fought back against the terrorists and struck the first retaliatory blow against Bin Laden's minions!  

In the past year I was in the Pittsburgh area for business and I took a side trip to that hallowed field in Shanksville, PA, the site of the crash of Flight 93 and it was ever so humbling, heart-wrenching, yet prideful.

Lastly, I vividly recall the wave of Red, White and Blue that donned houses, yards, cars and buildings in the days after the 9/11 attacks.   For a time, people in America put aside their differences as we were united in our anger for the attacks and our subsequent surge of Patriotism.

I will never forget the innocence lost that day and the galvanization of our communities and our country, I only wish it didn't wane, I wish we had that fervor to wear our hearts on our collective sleeves for the freedoms that have been forged via the blood of our ancestors...and lately, our brothers, sister, sons and daughters.  Never forget?  I never will!  God Bless America!

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Neil Gold: I was working at McKesson off First St. in Cambridge. I happened by a co-worker's cube and saw footage of the first plane striking the World Trade building. I thought that it had to be a suicide attempt in a light plane, never considering...a full-size jetliner.

Just when the 2nd plane struck, our telephone system went down. At that point I thought it was the Russians behind all of it. It turns out coincidentally that the workmen in the elevator shaft cut the phone wires accidentally. We evacuated around 11:00 am. and my manager drove a few of us out of Cambridge, all along I'm watching the Hancock through the back window as if it would be the next target.

Little did I know, my brother-in-law was in the air heading to the mid-west on a business trip. They announced an emergency and grounded him probably in Chicago.

Here's the eerie part of the story: If you know Boris Seidman from the Randolph Beth Am brotherhood and/or his son Jimmy: Jimmy was to have been on the flight out of Logan with his two co-workers but had changed his flight to another 2 weeks later to stay a bit longer with his parents. His co-workers, Ace Bailey and others are gone and he lived. I called him a few years ago in CA and asked if he felt 'lucky'. His answer was 'Yup'.

The days following 9/11 produced quiet skies. It's amazing we live with the constant noise from jet-liners and low-flying light planes and copters. The skies were quiet for awhile and I enjoyed that.

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Michael Georges: I was sitting in the cafeteria at Suffolk Law School drinking coffee and reading a story in the newspaper about the Taliban and how with Al-Queda's assistance, they assassinated an Afghan warlord who wasn't quite pro-western but was definitely anti Taliban. Just then, one of the media aides from the school came running in and turned on the television and we watched the first tower burn and saw the second plane hit. Another student asked what is this, I told him it is war.  

Classes were quickly canceled and the school was closed. The streets of Boston were filled with people, some looked scared, shocked or angry. All you could hear were sirens. I walked to South Station and saw a friend of mine heading to class, I called to him and told him classes were canceled. He too lived on the South Shore and we waited for a train to get us home.

The train was packed, people were getting out of Boston as fast as they could. When I got home, I found my mother glued to the television crying (she was on a hijacked airplane in the late 1960's and along with my father and sister were guests of the PLO for a few days in Damascus, Syria). She kept saying, "those poor people and their children."

The World changed forever that day. On the evening of September 10, 2011 a leftist member of the board of selectmen in Amherst had called in public to remove the American flag from the town square because it was a symbol of oppression or some such nonsense. Politicians started to refer to the United States as the Homeland. For a long time in front of the Moakley Courthouse in Boston, US Marshalls stood outside were armed with assault rifles. Fortunately, the selectman in Amherst became quiet and the assault rifles are not so visible now, America is still the greatest country in the world and bin Ladin rots.

But none of us could ever imagine that beautiful summer day would make a box cutter synonymous with evil. We would learn new things in the coming years that women in Afghanistan were treated as slaves and forced to wear the bur'qa, underwear and shoes could become bombs, that oceans did not protect against a patient and determined group of zealots. We also learned that there are people in the world who hate us, they want us to either die or succumb to their fascistic ideology. We have not and we will not. United We Stand.

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Mark W. Dolloff, Acting Fire Chief: I was working shift coverage the morning of the attack. We just finished our morning apparatus checks when we heard about the attack from the dispatcher. The group then gathered in the dispatch area and was watching the news report when we all witnessed the second jet hit the tower. The room fell silent.

We then just all looked at each other and said what the $#@% is going on. Then, the scariest part of the day were the live reports with all the Firefighter down alarms sounding in the background. Something only we could relate to. That sound still haunts me to this day.

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Former Acting Police Chief Christopher Ciampa: What I remember is a candlelight vigil at the High School football field. In the worst of times, we all came together as Americans and petty differences were forgotten.

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Cindy & Mike Pazyra: In the aftermath of September 11th, all of us felt like the world as we knew it was coming to an end and that our lives as we knew them would never be the same. We were right. 

For us personally, there was the terrible fear that our son, who had returned from Army National Guard basic training two weeks earlier and had begun his first semester of college, would certainly be deployed. He was. Twice. There was the sadness that our three children, and all children growing up in this world, forever changed, would never feel completely safe again. We didn't know if we would ever feel safe again. Safe to leave our home. To go to work. To attend events in public arenas where large crowds gather. Safe to travel by air or train to visit friends and family living far away. And, of course, there was the terrible grief for the families who lost their loved ones in such a cruel and inexplicable way. Grief, as well, for the families of thousands of men and women who were sent into harm's way in the ensuing war on terror, many of whom never returned.

Terrible crimes against humanity must never be forgotten...We owe it to our children and our childrens' children to always remember the losses not only to our own families, but the losses to our communities and our country.

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Paul Flynn: I remember being in Veterans Office at Stoughton Town Hall listening to music when a news bulletin broke in saying a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in NY. I didn't think too much about because planes have hit the Empire State Building in the past. Then Elaine from the Auditors office came over and said it was a full jet plane and the tower was on fire.

I went down the hall and turned on the TV in the cable room at the end of the Great Hall. We were watching the fire and the news reports when the second jet flew into the second tower at full speed and I believe I said this was deliberate.  As the new reports came in and they reported a plane missing somewhere around Pennsylvania and an airplane [crashing] into the Pentagon I started to worry about terrorist attacks.

Then I said to those in the room that I thought we (USA) would probably be heading back into war. This made me very uneasy and I got sick to my stomach because I know many young men and this time women would probably be dying before this was over. 9/11 was the catalyst for my retiring because I could no deal with any more war. Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War was enough. I stayed on for 4 more years but it became harder and harder to do my job.

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Roberta Camacho: I was in my classroom at the middle school. My preparation period had just begun and I received a call from another teacher to turn on the TV if no students were in the room. The first Tower had just been hit. I thought there had been a terrible accident.  At some point, I believe that the newscaster stated that the incident appeared to be an attack of some sort.  I started to pray for the victims and our country.

About 9:15, I received another call re: that students were not to be informed and TV should not be turned on. Administration was consulting about the plan of action and we would be notified. I turned off the TV and composed myself to greet the students that would be arriving for class in about 5 minutes.

It was very difficult to begin class as normal, but I did it. I looked out at 30 innocent faces and wondered what would be our fate. I knew that the best thing to do was to carry on as directed.  I will always remember the fear I felt that day.

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Stoughton Firefighter/EMT Jeff Ledin: [On heading down to the site of Ground Zero in the days following 9/11]--I first remember coming into the train station and seeing smoke still billowing from the World Trade Center. The members that I deployed with were all part of a Critical Incident Stress Management team. Upon our arrival, we first went through a tent to be cleared by F.E.M.A., received ID tags, and then were escorted to our own tent for incident briefings. After the briefings, we then went right to work talking with rescue personnel. 

The situations that the firefighters encountered and their accounts of it were nothing short of horrific. I’d like to say that 9/11 changed us for the better, and it did in some ways. People are more aware of their surroundings. Airports are more secure, etc. There have been tragedies at a much smaller scale locally, nonetheless tragedies.

Politicians and management are the first ones shouting for improvements to public safety manning, equipment, etc. But as time passes, and the cost factor comes into play, things stay status quo for the most part, and they conveniently forget about it, until the next time.

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Stoughton Town Manager Francis T. Crimmins, Jr.: On September 11, 2001, I was having breakfast at Callanan's Variety Store when I heard about the first crash from a friend.  I went home to watch the news coverage.  I will never forget seeing a couple jump to their death. I cannot imagine the terror that they experienced before deciding how they would end their lives.  

The terrorist attacks that day reminded all of us that our freedom cannot be taken for granted and we must remain ever vigilant of our enemies, both foreign and domestic. Many people lost their lives and others performed heroic deeds in attempting to save others.  We can never forget their sacrifice. We mourn their loss and the nation's loss of innocence.

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Stoughton Police Chief Paul Shastany: On September 11, 2001, I was home alone drinking coffee and reading promotional material for the upcoming test for Lieutenant. My wife called from work and asked me to find out what was happening in New York City involving a plane crash. I turned on the TV to see what I knew was no ordinary plane crash.

I watched the first towers consumed in smoke and fire. I saw cops, firefighters and paramedics rushing toward the scene and saw people leaning out of windows desperately waiting to be saved and others jumping to their deaths. I was infuriated by the utter evil and saddened at the same time. I wanted to get those that did this to us.

I also watched the towers burn and knew that my heroes; Police, fire, and ambulance workers were rapidly arriving and going into to the towers. I felt a tremendous sense of pride and a horrible knowledge that I knew many were going to their death, in service to others.

We are misunderstood creatures in emergency services. If you ask anyone in this business, they would tell you that saving the life of a single person can be the most compelling reason we rush in where others rush out. We accept that we may have to give the ultimate sacrifice in service to others. That strangely, is what makes our work so noble.

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Singer/Songwriter Lee Greenwood:  “Mark, ‘God Bless the USA’ came out in 1984, and was a minor chart hit. It got a boost that year when the Republican National Convention played it before President Ronald Reagan, and got played a lot during the Gulf War.  But, I was happy that it has been used as a unifying force for the country after the September 11 attacks. 

I was in California when the terrorist attack occurred.  I could not fly back to Nashville, and watched in horror as it unfolded on TV.  I really wanted to go to New York and help.  It makes me happy to know that my song helped heal people.

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Mark Snyder: It’s hard to believe that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, were 10 years ago.  Time really flew, but the images are deeply ingrained in our minds and our souls.  Everybody has a story of where they were when they saw the heart-wrenching scenes of that day unfold.  

I was actually in my car on the Southeast Expressway listening to Howard Stern on WBCN. I was heading to WMJX-FM to tape the 'Entertainment Minute.'  When I got to the radio station, the newsmen and the on-air jocks were gathered around a monitor in the hallway.  The second plane had just hit the towers, and everyone knew our country was under attack. 

Later, when the towers crumpled, and the smoke billowed through the streets below, we all felt sick knowing the human carnage that lay underneath.  Still later, we discovered neighbors and friends who were murdered by those cowardly terrorists, while working at what was supposed to be just another day at the office. 

The following days came the eerie silence from skies without airplanes, except for the occasional rumble of fighter jets.  It was a morning that the country lost its innocence, and a day that none of us will ever forget. We pause to think of all the innocent victims of that Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and pray that the evil that permeated those towers is eventually defeated.  Ground Zero will always be sacred ground to Americans.  It should remain that way.

(Check out this song from my friend, Ilene Springer about just this topic)

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Where were you the morning of Sept. 11? What do you remember from that day? Share your thoughts and memories with us in the comments section.

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