Never forget: TV6 staff share their memories of 9/11 terrorist attacks

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 11:24 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - It was a day that many of us will never forget.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America, TV6 staff shared their memories of that day.

Casey Costello, Executive Producer

I was 6-years-old when the Twin Towers fell in the 9/11 terror attacks. My family was living in Mississippi at the time, and I was in the first grade.

My mom picked us up from school early that day and I remember walking into our living room and seeing the images and videos of the attacks on our TV.

My mom was watching in shock and disbelief. I could feel the sadness and stress in the room, so I knew whatever was happening was bad.

My mom had told me she was on the phone with her friend after the first plane hit and was watching live reports on TV. Then, she watched the second plane hit in real-time and panicked.

That’s when she came and pulled us from school.

I also remember in the weeks following, my neighbor friends and I would talk about the attacks.

We talked about how many rooms were in the towers, what was going to happen next and talked about how our parents were devastated by what had happened and concerned about the future.

Recently, it was a crazy feeling to find out that kids were starting to learn about 9/11 as a historical event and that it was being documented in textbooks. I grew up learning about 9/11 from those around me and the memories that were so vivid for so many. Those younger than me learned about it as history.

Although I was young when it happened, I grew up seeing the world change around me in many ways due to this terrible and tragic day in time. As time goes on, I pray those who lost their lives and the countless heroes from that day are forever honored and remembered.”

Morgan Ottier, Quad Cities Today/Quad Cities Live Anchor

I was a sophomore in high school sitting in my Driver’s Ed class. We were set to take a quiz on driving laws and watch some videos. I was always panicking over missing just one quiz question and not getting a perfect 100%. They had an old TV set-up with a VHS player ‘front and center’. There were maybe 20 of us in the class, at most. Someone came into our room and told our instructor something quietly. Something bad was happening in New York -- a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We thought it was a small plane. Sad, of course. Still, they turned off the driver’s ed video and turned on the news.

We were all upset. What a tragedy! A plane full of people crashed into a giant building. A horrible accident. Which airline? Was it a mechanical malfunction? No one understood the true implications yet.

Then, the other plane hit. It wasn’t an accident. Neither crash was an accident. Panic began to set in.

I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since that day. We were all scared teenagers. For the first time in our short lives, we had to learn about terrorism, the Taliban, mass casualties, and war. Would our town get bombed, too? Would I ever feel safe getting on an airplane again? I still struggle with being stuck on an airplane -- is it just turbulence or something worse? For the first time, we saw parents and grandparents cry right in front of us. The whole nation cried.

The school day was different. We walked the halls, sat in the library and the cafeteria. On that day, teachers hugged students and bullies became friends because we all needed each other. I don’t remember if I got a perfect score on that driver’s ed quiz, but I will never forget that day.

Brianna Nielsen, Assignments Manager

I was in 6th grade at Neil Armstrong Elementary in Park View, Iowa. We were just let into school after waiting outside, and I saw all the teachers gathered around the one TV on a cart in the library.

The first plane had already hit and as soon as we got there all of us students saw the second plane hit. After that, we were quickly moved into our classrooms but later allowed to go watch if we chose to.

I remember I couldn’t stop crying. I was scared because my dad worked at the Arsenal, and my mom had gone to be with my college-aged sister who was sick in the hospital in Cedar Falls. My mom worked at my school, so usually, I would have just gone to her room. I’ll never forget my teacher Mrs. Green took me onto her lap and gave me what she called a mom hug.

She just held my whole body as I sobbed until I felt better. Later the school was able to get a hold of my dad. Once he could leave, he picked me up from school early. I remember watching the coverage on TV most of the night. The main thing I remember from the day is that hug, and just finally relaxing in her arms knowing that everything was going to be okay.

Darby Sparks, Investigative Reporter

I was 7 on September 11, 2001. I remember vividly when I first found out. I woke up for school and walked out to the living room to find my mom.

“Look at the TV,” she said, “something very bad is happening right now.”

I remember seeing the buildings on fire. The news was on in the background all day in school that day.

Tara Gray, Digital Director

I was a sophomore in college and was running late to a class that morning. When I got there, the professor asked for a moment of silence for the victims.

Walking through the student union that day, many students were huddled around these giant TVs in the building, watching everything they could about the terrorist attacks.

In German class, we spoke about nothing about what had happened that morning.

To this day, it still doesn’t feel real. Things like this happen in movies, not in real life. Twenty years later, I still shiver when I see footage of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers.

That day, I felt hopeless, confused and scared. My father at the time was still active-duty Army and he, my mother and brother was still stationed in Germany while I was in Illinois.

I feared what would happen if my dad was deployed, or if there would be similar attacks at military bases overseas.

Despite the unknowns and the sadness of the lives lost, I was comforted by the unity and strength, and resiliency of our country in the days and weeks that followed. I felt a little less hopeless and scared.

Randy Biery, Chief Photographer

I had just finished breakfast and had the Today show on. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were doing their thing and they said something hit the World Trade Center. I just sat and watched. And then soon after. the second one hit.

I started gathering my gear because I knew it was on. A reporter and I ended up at the Rock Island Fire Department and getting their reaction as they watched.

After work, I went home and watched all night. I don’t remember how we explained to the boys what was going on. They were junior high ages.

Marci Clark, Reporter

I was only 3-years-old on 9/11, so I don’t remember it. I first learned about what had happened in 5th grade when my teacher showed us a documentary about the day.

I remember thinking it looked like something out of a horror movie. I came home from school, asked my parents about it, and learned I have a cousin who was supposed to be at the World Trade Center that day for work. Fortunately, her meeting for work was canceled and she flew home from NYC early that morning. By the time she landed in the Quad Cities, both towers had collapsed.

Alexis Hermansen, Meteorologist

I was ready to head to O’Hare airport to go to Florida when we saw the news and we watched the news for the rest of the day. I now understand the changes that went through the country because of this tragedy whether it be in education or traveling.

It has been interesting to learn that animators and others in the entertainment industry recreated a few scenes after the attack, such as the air chase scene in “Lilo & Stitch.” There is a lot that changed in this country but at least we are now safer with the protocols that have been developed over the past 20 years.

Debbie McFadden, Associate Producer of Paula Sands Live, Multimedia Journalist

I had been listening to the radio broadcast of the TODAY Show while driving my 9-year-old son, Michael, to school at Riverdale Heights Elementary on that fateful Tuesday morning.

Suddenly, I heard breaking news coverage about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.

I remember Matt Lauer was the first person that I heard use the words “terrorist attack” as a theoretical possibility.

While dropping off Michael, I told him that it might be a confusing, upsetting day but that he could trust his teachers to provide some comfort and that we would talk more about it after school.

I numbly went about my business which included hosting a radio show that afternoon. It was challenging, but it gave Quad Citians a chance to talk about it while we played music as a way to escape upsetting images and information.

To be honest, most of it is just a blur now. What I can clearly recall is how the sorrow of that day had us all looking around at each other as if we were hoping another person would provide some comfort -which would never come.

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