“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.”
Those were the words of President George W. Bush delivered 20 years ago to a panicked nation hours after four hijacked airplanes carried out a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Two of those jets flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Another was piloted into the west wing of the Pentagon. On the fourth jet, passengers said goodbyes to loved ones before attempting to overwhelm hijackers before that jet crashed into an open field in southwest Pennsylvania.
Nearly 3,000 civilians were killed, along with 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers.
Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of those attacks, and a remembrance was held Saturday at the 9/11 memorial on the campus of CHI Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.
First responders were joined by veterans and other community members as organizer Bob Scott rang a bell for the 2,997 civilians, 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers who lost their lives as a result of those attacks.
Douglas County Fire District No. 2 Chief Rob Bullock was on duty on Sept. 11, 2001, when he got the news.
“I got a call to turn on the TV, and I watched in disbelief like everyone else,” Bullock recalled.
Roseburg Fire Department Chief Monte Bryan was with the Roseburg Police Department at the time, getting ready for his day shift when “my wife came out and said, ‘You have to see this!’”
“It was beyond comprehension,” Bryan said. “It was just a suspension of belief, just trying to comprehend what had just happened.
“Not a lot happened in Roseburg that day.”
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Brad O’Dell had just begun his senior year at Glide High School. He was in Thales Smith’s English class when, after a couple of minutes of Smith working through that day’s lesson, “he realized there was no point in doing this and he just turned the TV on,” O’Dell said.
“The second plane (into the twin towers) was when my stomach dropped,” O’Dell said. “School was different that day.
“It was a snap to reality, but it was also a great sense of patriotism. That’s why public safety means so much to me. Holding our military in high regard means something to me.”
“I was in shock over what I was seeing,” Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said. “It was a sense of shock and anger and the flood of emotions when you see an attack like that on your country.”
There have been a number of seminal moments in American history when almost everyone can remember where they were at the exact moment they heard Walter Cronkite announce the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, when John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded mere minutes after liftoff.
And almost everyone can remember where they were the day the towers fell.