War of the Worlds?

October 2001 issue of The Walkerville Times showing front of The Wood Doctor on Wyandotte Street between Windermere and Chilver in Olde Walkerville

8:50 a.m., Sept. 11, 2001

Stepping out of the car, I do a slow half circle to take in the beauty all around me. It’s a perfect day. Warm, but not too warm. Not a single cloud in the sky. The thick green canopy of trees is a spectacular contrast to the clear sapphire blue sky. The colors of the flowers in the gardens up and down the street seem especially vivid.

I want to bottle this day and pour it out in February.

I have just come home from the gym to have a quick breakfast before walking over to the office. As I walk up the porch steps my mind shifts to work matters and I contemplate what should go on the cover of the October issue of The Walkerville Times. My hand is about to push the handle of our front door when it swings open and Chris is standing there and says, “You’ve got to come see this!”

I follow him into the living room. The tv is on and I see footage of the World Trade Towers in New York City with smoke coming out of one of the towers. Chris explains that a plane had just flown into one of the towers. We discuss whether it’s a novice pilot who somehow flew off course. Suddenly, we see a plane fly into the other tower! How can this be happening? We can’t seem to grasp what we’re seeing with our own eyes.

The newscaster himself is in disbelief and doesn’t have the words to explain what is happening or why. I immediately think of my kids. Both are at school and I worry about what this will do to them.

I decide that if Rosalie, who’s only 7, hasn’t heard at school about what’s going on, I will protect her by not telling her – at least not right away. I just don’t want her to see her world change like this until I can figure out how to explain it to her. Jon is 11 and I think will be able to handle the news better although as he’s so sensitive, I can’t help but worry.

Like everyone else, we somehow manage to get through that terrible day and the weeks that followed. I become a 9/11 junkie watching hours and hours of news coverage of the attacks, the scenes of people running away with that huge grey cloud chasing them, and then the makeshift memorials and photos posted by people looking for their loved ones. It’s like war has come to my world.

September 11, 2001 was obviously one of those days that would be seared into our brains forever. No one would ever never forget what they were doing that day, just like we’ve never forgotten where we were when we heard John F. Kennedy was assassinated, watched men land on the moon, heard when John Lennon was shot and when Princess Diana died.

Curious as to what others were doing and how they reacted when they heard about the attacks on 9/11 I can began asking people we knew if they could share their stories in our October 2001 issue. Here is a sampling:

I heard the news at the tail end of the 8 a.m. radio newscast, and my immediate thought was that it must be something like the H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds” broadcast which created such a panic. But of course it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t a hoax, that it was horribly real. I tuned into CBC Newsworld and then phoned my son David to tell him to do the same. I had an appointment to take my car in for servicing that morning, so had to take the 10 a.m. ferry over to Vancouver Island. I spent most of the day watching the TV coverage, both at the car dealership, and later at home again. It was a beautiful, sparkling day here, so clear and tranquil, and as I was making the crossing I looked at the surrounding mountains and could not believe that such a ghastly event could happen on such a day.

Sheelagh Weeks, Salt Spring Island, Vancouver, formerly of Windsor

I was home making business calls when my wife Michelle called me on my cell and said, “They’re flying airplanes into the World Trade Tower!” I thought she was joking and said, “Get out of here!” I turned on CNN and saw the second plane hit live. I thought it was an instant replay because the announcers sounded so passive. As an American, I was at first angry and then I was really upset. I could have cried.

Pat Kelly, Windsor

I was at school inquiring about a classroom with a television when I first heard what happened. This was before the second plane hit the tower so I saw the live coverage. My friends and I talked about the possibility of World War Three starting. A friend of mine was completely disgusted at the loss of human life. Then we went back to class. The teacher didn’t even mention what happened. Classes continued all day.

Currie Bednarick, Gr. 12 student, Walkerville C.I.

I was taking a beer delivery around 9 am at work from a driver coming in from London. He said, “Can you put on your TV? I want to see what’s happening in New York.” I said, “Why, what’s happening?” I had no clue what was going on. We turned the TV on and saw the second plane hit. After watching for a while it was definitely hard to focus on work. I’ve spent a lot of time in the U.S. – I usually go to Detroit every week to escape my normal routine. It was devastating for me.

Joe McIntosh, Kildare House, Walkerville

I turned on the news at 5:45 a.m. (PDT) and all of a sudden, it cut away to New York to show that a plane had hit the World Trade Tower. I thought it was just a little plane and how sad that was. As I was planning to take the dog for a walk I see the second plane hit and I thought, oh my God, how could two planes hit the towers? I couldn’t stop watching. I was crying and freaking out and I woke up my daughter Ange and told her she should see what’s happening. It was like the world was ending. I finally pulled myself away from the TV to get ready for work at a clothing store in West Vancouver. I had to suppress my feelings all day although at one point, when a customer was obsessing about a skirt and made me call Toronto to see if one was available, I said to her, ‘Do you know what happened today?’ and she said, “Yes it’s sad but what can I do about it?” I couldn’t understand how she could be so callous.

Jan Dean, North Vancouver, formerly of Belle River

I was on a canoe trip from September 6 to the 20th in Quetico Provincial Park in northern Ontario with my brother and two friends. We did not have a radio or phones as we knew from past experience they would be useless. When we came out of the park on September 20th, we checked into a hotel in a small town west of Thunder Bay. After having a shower, we stopped into the pub next door for a beer and some dinner. As we usually do when we’ve been on a trip like this, we asked the bartender what had been going on in the world. When he told us about the attack we thought he was kidding. He kept insisting it was true and finally switched on CNN at the exact time that President Bush began his speech. We sat in stunned silence for 15 minutes trying to take it all in. Driving home the next day, we were extremely touched by all the flags we saw at half-mast in northern Ontario. We couldn’t stop talking about the disaster. We recalled that when the first plane had crashed, we had been setting up our tent. The only clue that something might have been amiss was one day my brother commented that he hadn’t seen any jet trails, but we really didn’t think anything of it.

John Lounsbury, Ann Arbor

Times Square was bursting with people when we visited in 2008 (photo e. weeks)

Chris and I and took our kids to New York three summers ago. We packed a lot into five days and had an incredible time. The streets were bustling night and day and there were tourists everywhere. It was hard to imagine that a tragedy on the scale of 9/11 had ever struck here. The city had returned to normal.

And I can’t wait to go back.

About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a series of peculiar events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, Walkerville Publishing Inc., (partner is Chris Edwards) launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999 and we produced 61 issues - the last in 2016. In 2004, we began producing local history books; that year we released "Best of The Times Magazine". Our current titles include 5000 Ways You Know You're From Detroit, 500 Ways You Know You're From Windsor, Walkerville - Whisky Town Extraordinaire, and Windsor Then - A Pictorial Essay of Windsor's Glorious Past. I also wrote a novel, Time Trespasser, that blends time travel with local history. I am working on a sequel. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, glass is nearly full person.
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