Residents remember 9/11

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, September 10, 2009

Unthinkable. Appalling. Tragic. No adjective can capture what people felt on Sept. 11, 2001 as two hijacked commercial airliners crashed into the World Trade Towers in New York City.

The living nightmare continued as another plane smashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth flight crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside after passengers engaged in a fight with the hijackers.

Friday, on the eighth anniversary of the attacks, the memories are still clear to Chilton County residents who heard the news that day, especially those who had loved ones nearby.

“I was scared to death,” said Ann Mims, whose son worked for American Airlines at the time. “They said it was an American Airlines plane, and I had no idea which plane he was on that day.”

Mims was on her way to a Chilton Leadership meeting at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana when she heard about the first plane crashing. On her way back to work at Peoples Southern Bank in Clanton, she heard about the second plane.

As she entered the back door, coworkers told her that her son, Dale, had called and said he was OK.

“My knees were just weak,” Mims said. “I just sat down because I didn’t think I could walk on to my desk.”

Jemison Mayor Eddie Reed was driving a school bus on Sept. 11 when he was stopped by a former student from Calera. At first, Reed thought he was joking.

“You couldn’t imagine something of that magnitude happening to the United States,” he said.

Another former student of Reed’s, an Army lieutenant colonel, was supposed to attend a meeting in the Pentagon that morning, but the meeting was cancelled.

Pennie Broussard, director of the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce, first found out while talking to her mother on the phone.

She then turned on the radio in her office.

“She said, ‘I’m sitting here watching the craziest thing.’ Then she said, ‘Oh my goodness! A plane just hit the other one!’” Broussard recalled.

Chilton County Superintendent of Education Keith Moore said he watched the events unfold from a TV in the Verbena High School library. He saw a plane strike the second tower as it was broadcast live.

Moore said he thinks of that day often.

“You always think about it because there’s always some type of reminder,” he said. “You watch a game being played in New York, or you see the numbers 911.”