Editor's Note: St. Peters' Alderman Patrick Barclay wanted to share his thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Here are his words.
By Patrick Barlcay
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the horrible events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001.
That day changed the lives of everyone living in the United States, and many living around the world as well. Just like the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, people will never forget where they were when our country was attacked.
For me, I was off that morning from work. While making breakfast at home, I got a call from my boss at the weather office at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. He knew I grew up near New York City and telephoned to tell me that a plane had just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I immediately turned on the television and watched news reports of the incident.
It was 7:46 a.m. here in St. Peters when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. What was being broadcast was live coverage of the damage caused by the Boeing 767. It was assumed at the time that it had to be an accident similar to when a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945. At 8:03 a.m. we all learned it was no accident.
Just 17 minutes after the first plane hit, United Airlines Flight 175 was seen flying directly into the South Tower. As I stood there watching the destruction caused by the second 767, I began to cry. I couldn’t believe that anyone would kill so many innocent people.
My home state and home country was under attack. I had previously visited the South Tower observation deck with my wife before we had gotten married. I had grown up just 50 miles east on Long Island. Every time I took a trip to the city, there they were—the Twin Towers, what a sight to see as you drove over the bridge into Manhattan.
At 8:37 a.m. coverage was switched to Washington, D.C., where American Airlines Flight 77 had flown into the side of the Pentagon. Just 22 minutes later the television stations shifted their live broadcasts back to NYC as the South Tower collapsed. At 9:03 a.m. it was reported that a fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The passengers broke into the cockpit to try and regain control of the airliner. They found out via telephone calls they made that other planes were also hijacked that morning and what they were being used for. These people weren’t going to let that happen. However, the hijackers rolled the plane into a dive and crashed the plane on purpose. Shortly afterward at 9:28 a.m., the North Tower came down.
For three days all flights were grounded throughout the United States. It was eerie working at the airport during that time. I was used to seeing flights taking off and landing every few minutes. During that entire time, the images of the destruction on 9/11 kept replaying in my head.
In March 2003 I was in Washington, D.C., attending a conference and I made it a point to go visit the Pentagon. I drove by the wall that was destroyed in the attack. You could see the exact location because the color of the marble was different than the original stone used to construct the building in 1943.
None of us can ever forget, nor should we, what took place that September morning in 2001. Nearly 3,000 people died that day. Most were civilians, but many were first responders who rushed to the crash sites to try and save lives. If it weren’t for these heroes, many more lives would have been lost. On a typical day, there were about 50,000 people working in the towers and several thousand in the area of the Pentagon that was hit. These police officers, firefighters, ambulance personnel and soldiers are true heroes. Many died helping those they didn’t even know.
It was widely believed in 2001, later proved, that Flight 93’s target was the U.S. Capitol building. To remember and pay tribute to those who died on 9/11, I sent away for a flag that flew on the dome of the Capitol on Sept. 12, 2002. It was then shipped to me. I asked Bill Rupp and other members of our local Veterans Commission to help me do something.
On Nov. 11, 2002 we held our annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the . Directly in front of the building are several flagpoles. On that morning, before the ceremony, the flag I got from the Capitol was hoisted up the middle flagpole. I remember looking every so often at the flag as it waved in the wind during the ceremony. Only a handful of people knew that it was no ordinary flag. After everyone left, the Stars and Stripes were lowered, folded and placed inside a triangular flag case. I was then presented the flag and brought it into the lobby of City Hall. Next time you visit, look to the side and under the big clock on the wall. Walk up to it and look inside the display case. That is the permanent resting place for the flag. It only flew these two times and then was retired. I donated it so everyone can see it and remember what took place 10 years ago this month.
My September 2002 Upfront article was just one sentence long. Here it is once more and I ask everyone again: “Please join me in a moment of silence to remember those who died on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.”