- Special Sections
Everyone remembers where they were on this fateful day 11 years ago when the World stopped and watched two iconic towers fall from the New York City skyline at the hands of a terrorist that was thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.
Some people were at school, either learning or teaching, some just getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of another work day, and some were at home taking care of their children. The 9/11 stories are endless, but for one Guymon woman, the story hit home in every literal sense.
Sally Pittman, employee at the Bank of the Panhandle, was born and raised in Spearman, and was only 18 years old at the time the attack on the country took place. What makes her story unique is the fact that she was there, in New York City, on that day.
Sally had just begun attending New York University after graduating from Spearman High School that Spring.
âI started my first year of college on Sept. 4, 2001. One week later, Tuesday, Sept. 11, I woke up late for class,â said Sally.
She woke up late that day for a class that was instructed by a professor that she describes as a tiny, angry, Greek man, who locked the door and started complaining that his car stereo was stolen the night before, making it seem like the worst thing possible that could happen. Little did he or his students know, their day could indeed take a much worse turn.
Sally and her friend Larry went for coffee and a walk around campus after class when they saw the smoke billowing from the north tower. They were told it was just a small private plane that had hit the building, seeming to be a smaller situation than it actually was. Their curiosity kept them walking south toward the scene where they realized it was more than just a simple private plane accident.
As they stood in Washington Square park, the realization hit that this was an awful event, and the early scenes of chaos took place as a man walking through the park began yelling âthis means war!â
As they went to her friendâs dorm to call family members, they found it was impossible to use a cell phone and was extremely difficult to get out on a landline. They turned on the television and along with the rest of the country, watched the first tower fall.
As they walked back to Sallyâs dorm, they witnessed the chaos unfold as people were desperately trying to evacuate the area with the northbound lanes crunched with cars inching away from the scene, and the southbound lane isolated.
Sally recalls a man blaring his radio and opening his doors to allow everyone to hear what was happening on the radio, and a lady was repeating what she was hearing through her radio headphones.
Everyone wanted to get out as soon as they could, but for Sally, whose home was in a small Texas Panhandle town, leaving was not an option. Classes were cancelled following the attack, and she was only able to contact her family to let them know she was safe by email. It was her motherâs birthday, and without cell phone service, she was unable to give her âhappy birthdayâ wishes until she was able to contact them.
Sally was only about a mile from the towers, and the whole area locked down. She was only allowed in her residency area with identification and the National Guardâs granted access.
The next day was a scene that is never heard of for New York City as it was dead, and the only vehicles passing were ambulances and humvees.
âI woke up that Wednesday morning to an eerie silence, in a city that never sleeps.â
Sally attended a candlelight vigil in Washington Square Park that night by herself, as all her friends had evacuated the city as soon as they could.
âEverybody came together, everybody cried, everybody mourned together as one,â said Sally. âIt didnât matter what your race was or your religion. None of it mattered.â
Sally said she still has candles from that vigil somewhere, and it has definitely been something that she has struggled with in the years following 9/11. She witnessed people covered in soot and it hung in the air, and they advised residents in her area to cover the cracks in the doors and windows with wet towels in fear of what may be traveling in the air.
âAt the time, I remember thinking I was okay, and in the years that followed I really had some struggles,â said Sally. âI was trying to face what I had seen, and I had seen things falling out of these tall, huge buildings and walked around and everyone wants to take pictures of the ground that had been leveled and planes were flying really low. Even though we knew they were with the government, we were still uneasy. There was just a lot of uncertainty and uncomfortableness.â
Sally witnessed first-hand the hatred towards the Islamic and Middle Eastern cultures as the classes she attended contained students with very diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Sally lived in New York five years after moving there for school, and has been back since then. She hopes to do something to pay her respects for September 11 in the future; a volunteer act to help in remembrance of that day.
âI think that is something that we as a community or a nation need to do is remember the unity we had because of it,â said Sally, âEverybodyâs lives changed in some way, whether it was the way you get on an airplane or something else.â
Sallyâs grandmother died four days after September 11 in Sallyâs hometown of Spearman, and Sally was able to finally get to go home and see her family the following week for the funeral before returning to the chaos of New York City to continue on with her life.
âAt the end of the day, you come to the realization that we all have to live our lives and appreciate what we have,â said Sally.
Eddie Adamson of Guymon has a different perspective as a member of law enforcement. He was a Lieutenant in charge of Training and Special Operations for the Forrest City, Ark. Police Department full time, and teaching with Sabre Tactical part time. Adamson had previously trained with some members of the New York City Fire Department to develop plans for the Law Enforcement response to weapons of mass destruction after the Oklahoma City Bombing and the first bombing of the World Trade Center where a bomb went off in a parking garage. So when 9/11 happened, Adamson said it really hit him hard on a personal level.
âThat morning I was in my office and got a call from a friend in Portland, Ore. who told me to turn on the TV,â said Adamson. âThe first tower had been hit and everyone was speculating on what had happened, but for the most part it was clear that it wasnât an accident.â
He said that when the second plane hit, everyone knew they were under attack.
âI remember watching people getting out and seeing the fire trucks and the firemen heading toward the towers,â said Adamson. âAs I was watching, I remember saying they were set up too close, and when the towers fell I knew so many people had died that I was both sad and infuriated at the same time; but honestly, what I remember the most was pure anger and outrage and wanting to get anyone associated with the attack. Seeing people die on live TV like that was something no one had ever been exposed to and the shock of it all shook us to our foundation,â said Adamson.
Adamson believes that this event was one of the defining moments of his generation.
âIt spurred our country to come together in a way that I had never seen,â said Adamson. âFor a period of time crime was stopped in our country, and our country and leaders were prayed for in all the churches, and we prepared to fight anyone who would even claim to support this terrorist attack against our country. We were united more than at any other time in my life and that feeling of uncertainty was far overshadowed by everyone wanting to do something to help. I had some of my friends equate it to Pearl Harbor earlier in their lives. 9/11 was something that no matter where you were, you could feel the unity.â
As the nation looks back in memory and honor of almost 3,000 lives that were lost that day in New York City, the plane full of heroes that went down in Pennsylvania, and the victims of the Pentagon attack, everyone will always have their own story about that day, and how it affected and changed them in a way that as a nation, we will never forget.
The Guymon Fire Department has a piece of one of the beams of the World Trade Center in their lobby that they are going to put in the new fire station when it is finished. This and many other acts, are ways to make sure that eerie September day is never forgotten.
It is not easy to look back on, but the patriotism and unity that the country showed is something that will never be forgotten, along with the innocent lives taken in the wake of a tragic terrorist attack.
âThis is always a hard week for me,â said Sally Pittman. âThat being said, it needs to be a reminder of the fact that we were resilient, and that we did survive, and that we are still standing as a nation.â