Eighteen years ago, a stunned Miami Valley reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the same as much of the country.
How do we make sense of the violence, confusion and devastation?
Roads were closed around downtown’s federal building and other public sites. The Dayton International Airport was part of a nationwide shutdown, and pilots were stranded at smaller airports across the region.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was on high alert.
The Dayton Daily News reported senior leaders at the Air Force Material Command were monitoring the readiness of Air Force combat aircraft in a “war room-like battle staff room.” The story noted the last time the battle staff center was activated, as far as was publicly known, was during the global Y2K watch on New Year's Eve in 1999.
Construction was halted on Dayton’s new Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, and non-essential downtown businesses were asked to close for the day.
Rosalinde Rebosky, a mother of four working at the Sassy Upscale boutique in the Salem Mall, told the newspaper, “My first reaction was we have to pray. I have to get everybody to do a good act of contrition.”
“I’ll never forget this day,” Lebanon High School athletic director Dave Brausch said in 2001 as he worked the phone postponing athletics events. “There is a mood of disbelief and there are a lot of unknowns.”
As the dust began to settle in the following days, the community gathered.
More than 300 Wilberforce University students and faculty members huddled in prayer on the bleachers of the school’s Alumni Multiplex in Wilberforce.
Across U.S. 42, Central State University students gathered for a special convocation titled “Peace in the Midst of the Storm.”
The Rev. John Freeman, director of CSU’s interfaith campus ministry, tried to comfort the students.
“Don’t be discouraged. Joy will come in the morning,” he said. “God will make the way out of no way.”
More than 1,000 people, many wearing patriotic colors, gathered along the Great Miami River at RiverScape for a program hosted by WONE-AM radio’s Bucks Braun.
“I’ve got red, white and blue blood and an American heart,” said Dixie Bruggeman of Dayton at the event. “It was time to be a part of something. Today was a way to unite with fellow Americans.”
Too many people were touched by the loss of someone they loved.
The University of Dayton campus was numb as it waited for information about six people with university ties who were missing or confirmed dead. Firefighters at stations across the Miami Valley grieved for their fallen comrades in New York City.
“It’s like a brother died. It’s hard to describe,” said Springfield Fire Dept. Lt. Dave Aills days after the attack.
In grief, the nation came together.
A Sept. 16, 2001, Dayton Daily News article summed it up this way: “Feeling helpless and threatened by Tuesday’s terrorist assaults, Americans struck back with their most basic resources – blood, sweat and patriotism.”
Firefighters, doctors and American Red Cross volunteers from the area headed to the three attack sites.
Ohio Task Force 1 urban search and rescue boarded a bus for a site in New York City 20 blocks from where the World Trade Center fell.
“Got on a bus, headed for hell,” said spokesman Scott Hall at the time.
Closer to home, local restaurants donated proceeds to a relief fund and donations were made to the ASPCA to care for stranded pets and provide booties for rescue dogs who needed protection while searching through rubble.
More than 400 people lined up one afternoon to donate blood at Dayton’s Community Blood Center.
“I had only two places to go, either here or church,” Steve Pearson told a Dayton Daily News reporter while waiting in line. “I figure I’d come here first and go to church later.
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