This Sunday the thoughts of many people who live and work in Forest Park will drift back 10 years to the day when Americans realized how vulnerable this country was.
Ernie Hines, a singer and songwriter, who is in the Internet music business, recalled that day.
“I was home waking up, flipping on the TV, in my bedroom, and began watching what the hosts were watching that mind-blowing morning. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was home alone and wanted to reach out and help those people in the ‘Twin Towers.'”
John Wenglinski, now retired, was just beginning his new job as a reading specialist at Proviso West High School.
“On 9/ll I had heard something about the first plane crash on the radio, on the way to school, and initially thought it was a terrible accident. As word began to spread throughout the school, teachers and students were alarmed. Initially I was dumbfounded: What could this mean? Who would deliberately slam two airplanes into the World Trade Center? As more information and speculation occurred in the course of the day, anger mixed with sorrow were my feelings.”
Sister Sarah Barrett happened to be on the campus of Southern Illinois University when the airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center.
“Little did we realize then the ways life in the U.S.A. would never be the same, as we later watched endless reruns, following the actual assaults. None of us could believe that the second plane plowing into the other building was actually happening and [was] not a re-run. I was trying to encourage everyone to realize that this country would get through this. But this first attack against the country in the ‘lower 48’ shocked us out of a certain sense of invulnerability. It was certainly difficult for any students from the Middle East – Christian or Muslim.”
Dave Feinstein, a nursing student, said that day will live in his memory forever, not so much because of what happened in New York City, but due to what happened to him in Gary, Ind.
“At that time, I was the owner of a restaurant [and] bar called the Old Har Lounge in Portage, Ind. Portage … boasted a 100 percent white population. The town in a whole was very racist and close-minded. When someone is raised in a community like that, the views are passed down and a lot of people share the racist close-minded ideals. It pains me to admit that I was one of those people. We had just celebrated the Labor Day holiday with a giant cookout. I had to return grills to a location in Gary, which is predominantly black. While driving along Broadway in downtown Gary, a beat-up old car pulled up next to us. It was a young African man, approximately 19 years old. He was dressed in gang colors and I became very nervous. The young man yelled at me from his car window and said, ‘I think they’re trying to kill us.’ I responded by saying, ‘If we stick together we won’t let that happen.’ He then responded with, ‘I love you brother,’ and drove away. At that moment, my life was changed forever. All of the prejudice views that I had seemed really insignificant. I wish I could find that young man and tell him how his words affected me. At that moment I realized there is only one race – the human race. Since that morning, I do not prejudge people by their race or color anymore. I respect everyone on an individual basis.”
Hines, the singer/songwriter, said he anticipates having some angry feelings resurrected once the 10th anniversary rolls around on Sunday.
“My blood will boil and my temperature rise as I experience [and] relive that day all over again, because we were forever changed. America was not safe anymore; we were caught asleep at the wheel, and countless innocent lives were lost. It affected me in such a profound way that I was moved to pen the song ‘I Love America,’ in defiance to the dastardly deed that had been perpetrated against us.”
Wenglinski, the retired reading specialist, thinks he will feel differently than he did when the attacks happened.
“I plan to pray for all of the victims and their families. I am more aware than ever of how good Muslim people, in general, are. They nobly endure the various insults the ignorant hurl at them.”
Sister Sarah also had something to say about Muslims.
“I have known many Muslims who are caring, hard-working, wonderful people who were just as horrified as any other Americans … As crummy as the rest of us feel about our treatment, it is often worse for them, just because of their ancestry or birthplace or customary mode of dress.”
However you feel about post-9/11 America, the 10th anniversary is a time of reflection. Are we winning the war on terror? Are we any safer than we were a decade ago; especially since Osama bin Laden is now dead? How much longer will we continue fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? These are only a few of the questions that many Americans will be asking themselves throughout the days surrounding the anniversary on Sunday.
Nick Moroni contributed to this story