News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

September 6, 2011

LIZ CIANCONE: Memories of 9/11: Hairpin vapor trails

Those of us who have been around awhile remember a lot of stuff. Not only do critical moments in our lives loom large, we also remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when history was being made.

My earliest experience came when I was still toddling. We were vacationing in Wisconsin and I heard on a radio that Will Rogers and Wiley Post had been killed in an airplane crash in Alaska. Dad was a big fan of Will Rogers, so I scampered to the lakefront where Dad was scraping the scales off the day’s catch to impart the news.

I remember with equal clarity that I was across the street eating cookies with Mrs. Loomis when the radio announced that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and that our country was at war in the Pacific.

I was slathering meringue on a lemon pie when the phone rang and the voice of a tearful friend told me that a mysterious “they” had shot Jack Kennedy. Somehow that pie didn’t taste as good as I thought it should.

And then there was 9/11. My Best Friend and I were headed for Colorado Springs for a get-together at the Air Force Academy. We spent the first night from home at an Air Force base just southeast of Kansas City. The next morning my BF was checking out while I watched television in the lobby.

Suddenly, an airplane struck a skyscraper. I called to my BF and said, “Look at that! It almost looks as if they did that on purpose!”

And, so they had. Then a second plane struck. We decided to go ahead and we headed west. We watched vapor trails of jets leaving the Kansas City airport, then the trails made a hairpin turn and headed back to the field.

The car radio blasted the news all day — it was too much to believe. We listened into the night at our stop in Hays, Kansas, and got to Colorado Springs the third day. The Academy was on tight security and we couldn’t go there at all. Many who expected to fly in were grounded in their home towns or someplace en route. The hotel was jammed with people who couldn’t leave to fly home and car rental people refused to rent if you planned to take the car out of town.

It wasn’t much of a meeting, but I remember most those hairpin vapor trails going back to Kansas City.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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