Reprinted with permission Terry Suominen
Ten years ago I was working a swing shift in a local casino just a few miles from the Strip. At two in the morning as my shift ended I raced home to get a few hours of sleep before my first class at UNLV was slated to begin. After awakening I took a shower and dressed as I ran out the door sometime around 6:30am. The next few hours will be etched in my mind until I take my last breath with only this writing as a reminder of what happened on that fateful day September 11, 2001. Not only will I always remember, but we will always remember.
I jumped into my Blue and White Bronco II with my books and a drink at 6:30am. The morning was nice so I put my window down and cranked up the stereo listing to my local favorite which played all the tunes of the 70′s and 80′s. As I made my way onto the freeway that would take me to the airport tunnel something seemed strange as I drove. I could not place the quietness immediately but as I drove I pondered the eerily quiet state surrounding me.
As my Bronco raced through the tunnel just minutes from the university I still was unaware of what was going on though I knew subconsciously there was a problem. At the end of the airport tunnel I could see a plane by the fence line idle and I thought to myself, “why is it so quiet this morning, what happened?” As I drove the skies were empty, not a flight was in the sky.
The trip to UNLV from the tunnel lasted 4 or 5 minutes which seemed like hours as my mind attempted to decipher my unusual surroundings. The music was playing as I approached the Tropicana and Paradise intersection just outside the parking area for my first class. Still the skies were quiet without an airplane attempting a final approach with its landing gear extended as they glided onto the runway for a landing. Still I didn’t understand the calmness.
I drove into the parking lot of UNLV and parked, grabbed my books and headed onto the campus toward Frank and Estella Beam Hall where my first class was to start in just about 15 minutes. As I walked toward the stairway there was a crowd gathered around the only TV in the area so I slowed down to catch a glimpse of what was being broadcast on that set.
As I moved closer toward the TV I could see thick black smokey clouds billowing from a building I did not recognize at first. So I moved closer to the crowd and now saw the World Trade Center buildings ablaze with flames spewing out the windows and that thick black smoke enveloped the top of the buildings. Several reporters were shocked and numb to the fact both towers where now ablaze as they reported from the ground close to the attacks. The first reporter I heard stated in fact two separate planes have crashed into the Twin Towers as they broadcast with individuals from around the Centers common grounds and up two a few miles away.
The first crash occurred at 8:46am PST as it plummeted the South Tower at a high rate of speed. Flames were coming out of the building and the smoke was filling the sky with every minute that passed by. The flight path that was taken was not a normal flight path according to witnesses. Later on it was revealed the plane that hit the first tower was American Flight 11. It is presumed all passengers were killed on impact as a huge explosion occurred seconds after the plane hit.
As the reporters continued the coverage attempting to remain calm and collective one reporter stated she had just gotten word that another plane had gone down somewhere in Pennsylvania. As the information was relayed we learn of yet another terrorist cell that hijacked United Flight 93. Later we learned the passengers decided to overwhelm the attackers which brought the plane down in Shanksville, PA averting an attack on the White House.
As I walked up those stairs for my first class of the day I was filled with disbelief only to remember our instructors words only one week prior. Our professor during a conversation stated America will be attacked someday. Our land will have enemy terrorists attempt to destroy this nation. Not because of the people but because of the policies of our government. See our government gets to involved in other countries decisions and foreign countries hate us for that.
The class was a terrorist class concerning Middle Eastern Nations. As we sat down on 9/11 at 7:15 am our world had changed. Once we were all in our seats the professor opened class with a discussion of what just happened. He insisted anyone who may have relatives or friends in New York to leave class to find out what they could. He then went on to have an open discussion on what just happened to our America.
We discussed many subjects that morning in that class. We talked about how people can hate this country enough to kill innocent victims. We listened to classmates talk about their disbelief that terrorists could attack our land just as the Japanese had at Pearl Harbor. We talked about our government and their role in governments around the world. Most importantly we talked about the World Trade Center and those thousands of innocent victims. Hoping and praying more lived than died.
Our lives, our country was changed forever as we watched two of the greatest symbols of freedom collapse before our eyes as thousands parish. To the victims, to the hero’s who gave their lives so others could live we offer our prayers. to the families of the fallen we offer our support. On this day September 11, 2011 we will remember and consistently be reminded of that frightful day 10 years ago. Peace to all those who suffered as we the greatest nation in the world remember and celebrate freedom, something no one can take from us no matter what who they are, what they are or where they come from. Freedom is the fight worth fighting for. God Bless.