Archive for Thursday, September 14, 2006

Baldwin City remembers 9/11

September 14, 2006

Five years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks changed the world -- and Baldwin City -- forever.

Everyone will remember where they were when hijacked airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and another plane intended to hit the Whitehouse was commandeered and crashed in Pennsylvania.

Tom Mundinger, Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center principal, recalls it like it was yesterday.

"That day is still very vivid in my memory," said Mundinger. "I can remember being in the school office that morning at the start of school as word was coming in. We turned on the TV in the library and watched along with the rest of the country as the news was shown live over the news channels.

"I can remember thinking after the first plane hit what a terrible accident," he said. "Little did we know at the time it was no accident and the worst was still to come. By the end of that day, I was well aware how drastically the world had changed in one day."

The emotions moved from day to day for the principal.

"In the days following, I remember feeling an enormous sense of pride and patriotism in our country and a tremendous sadness for the people who had lost their lives and for the families who had lost loved ones," said Mundinger.

And, even today, that sadness continues.

"Five years later, the feeling I have is one of lost innocence for my children and their children," he said. "Life as we knew it before 9/11 will never be the same for them. It is very sad to think that the threat of on-going terrorist attacks has now become a part of their everyday life. What a loss that is."

Mayor Gary Walbridge knew from the start that 9/11 had changed everything.

"I was working a purified acid plant start-up project in Soda Springs, Idaho, when the trade towers were attacked and destroyed," said Walbridge. "Besides the shock and surprise of the event, to be so many hundreds of miles away from your family and loved ones, it made you feel as though you were alone and vulnerable.

"As the skies became empty and quiet, you asked yourself where did our world go? Life was different at that very moment," he said.

He had personal ties to the towers, too.

"My company was based in Philadelphia; I have seen the trade center towers from one of our chemical plants in Cateret, New Jersey," said Walbridge. "It seems like everyone knew somebody affected by the collapse of the towers."

Walbridge also isn't hopeful about the future as a result of 9/11.

"I don't think we will ever win the war against terror," he said. "I don't think we will ever not be at war."

For Ande Parks, local author/artist and Baldwin School Board member, Monday was an odd day.

"I was sitting here working this morning, listening to Howard Stern's re-broadcast of his 9/11 show and I decided that reliving that day's emotions was good for me," said Parks. "It took me back to a feeling that all Americans are united when we really need to be ... that the differences of race, economic status, religion and everything else disappear when your fellow Americans are being victimized.

"So, even though I completely disagree with the politics of the administration since the attacks and I think the war against terror has been largely handled with gross incompetence, I was flying my flag today and doing so proudly," he said.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman realizes the changes that 9/11 have brought, but he remains optimistic.

"I don't know that my answers would be much different from anyone else's," said Dingman. "9/11 certainly reaffirmed -- and continues to reaffirm it on its anniversary -- that we are all vulnerable, at-risk and susceptible to unwarranted violence and destruction at any point in time. To me, it's not an idea limited to international terrorists, but can happen at any moment of any day, as it does in many places in the country and around the world.

"On this anniversary of 9/11, I simply take the time to reflect on my life, my friends and family, give thanks for them, and make a new resolve to not take them for granted," he said. "And then I pray that my children will grow to enjoy a better set of circumstances during the course of their lives."

For City Councilman Tony Brown felt the occasion Monday, but has developed an attitude focusing on home town.

"This is an odd day," Brown said Monday. "Of course, the legacy of 9/11 affects us all and we are acutely aware of that today. I don't really have anything profound to say about how to remember this day or what the five-year anniversary of the attacks means. It's one of those national events that is so big and one over which we have such little control that it's hard for me to know how to even think about it.

"I remember asking my father when I was in college what it was like to raise a young family in the 1960s," he said. "My sister was born in '60, I was born in '61 and my brother in 1964, so when the country was coming apart over Vietnam and the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated, my parents had little kids going off to school and learning to ride bikes.

"So, I asked my dad how he dealt with all the uncertainty in the country at that time and still raised a family," said Brown. "And he said something I'd never thought of. He said that he just got up in the morning and went to work and did the daily things he was supposed to do. He knew he couldn't effect national events, so he put his energy into the things he could affect."

That's where Brown finds himself in Baldwin City in 2006.

"That's sort of the way I feel about the 9/11 attacks and subsequent war on terror -- these aren't issues that take up a lot of time in my daily life," he said. "I get up in the morning and I go to work and I mow the lawn and I try to be a good husband and father. My actions aren't going to make a big dent in international terror networks, but they can make a difference in my neighborhood and the larger Baldwin City community.

"On an individual basis, that may be the best we can do," said Brown.

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