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Recollections of 9/11: North County

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iBerkshires has gathered some local recollections about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including from our own staff, here in North County.

Jack Guerino, iBerkshires community editor

I was in fifth grade at Brayton Elementary School. Truthfully my recollection of the school day is that it was quite normal. I believe we were sent home early, but I do not recall an explanation why.
I know when I stepped off the bus I was excited to be home so early. It was sunny and still felt like summer. My mom had the news on in the living room. She explained what was going on the best she could. All I really understood was that two planes hit some buildings in New York City. 
I did not grasp the enormous loss of life or the concept of terrorism. I thought they were just buildings; we could rebuild them.
The next day in school I remember talking about it with a friend. I gave my perspective, still working with the ridiculous idea that two empty planes hit two empty buildings. My friend corrected me right away.  
I dont think the number of casualties was even then clear to me. It was hard to fathom how many people could be in such large buildings. I did have a looming sense of impending doom. This glimpse of real human darkness made me sick to my stomach. I was sitting in the back row. I remember I was thankful that I could fade out of the morning conversation.
It was hard to grasp what was happening in the Middle East. These things seemed so far away from Berkshire County, but the fear became more localized as new concerns arose like would the terrorists attack North Adams? I remember being terrified of nuclear war.
I saw that my parents were afraid, struggling to make sense of things and what it meant for Americans, what it meant for our family. The news was on a lot more than it had been in years past. There were new words: al-Qaeda, hijack, anthrax, weapons of mass destruction, Ground Zero. 
This was a pivotal moment and it was clear to me, even at age 11, that nothing would be the same.

Dennis St. Pierre

St. Pierre, former American Legion commander in North Adams, and owner of State Street Tavern, said he was on his way to work when he heard the news. He was dropping a friend off at work when the news came on the radio
We were coming down Route 8 right by the bowling alley, the radio was on. It didn't sound like a big deal on the radio. It said a light plane crashed into a building. We had a chuckle and just thought some asshole hit a building. It was either tough luck for somebody or some screwball was having a bad day. We took it pretty lightly.
I dropped my friend off and when I got to the bar the TV was on. That is when I saw what was really going on. It was a sick feeling, a lump in your throat and in your gut. As more came out it was more of a pissed-off feeling as we found more information. It was sad, too. Reminded me of the day JFK was assassinated.
More and more people started coming out. There were a couple of guys who came down that haven't drank in a long time. They came down in disbelief. Everyone was together and they wanted to be together. It was a come-together moment. No political bull, everyone was an American.

James Brosnan

Brosnan is superintendent of the Northern Berkshire Vocational Technical School District and retired as a colonel from the Army Reserve.
I sat in my office here I turned on the television and the rest was disbelief. As a member of the United States Army Reserve, I knew what that would mean, and sure enough, by July of 2002, I was sent to Kuwait for six weeks. I returned for the opening of school and in December of that year, I was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq.
I know personally where I was and how it affected me
I had friends and family that were killed in Sept. 11 so that is something that is always going to be remembered. It is a day for us to remember those souls but also for us to understand the resolve that all Americans showed on that day and continue to show in the future as we go forward.

Rebecca Cellana, iBerkshires business manager

I was commuting to Rhode Island three days a week, and that morning in Newport, R.I., I saw an airliner that was strangely low in the sky taking the turn to fly toward New York. I didn’t think much of it until the first plane hit the World Trade Center. All I could think was those poor pilots losing control of their plane like that while other people in the office were talking about it being done on purpose. I said of course not, who would ever do something so horrendous? 
Then the second one hit and the reports started coming in about the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania. Everyone in the office was so distraught and started leaving, they all lived nearby.
All I could think was what else is going to happen and how was I going to get home to my family in North Adams. I jumped in the car and flew home and mourned along with the rest of the country.
The next day I remember packing up blankets and water and bringing them down to Main Street where an 18-wheeler was packing donations to drive straight down to Manhattan. The country truly came together in the following days and weeks, it was something to see. 

Melanie Rowland, North Adams resident

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was walking home from Conte Middle School in North Adams with my best friend, Kaitlyn. As per the norm, it was the first week of school, which meant half days all week. Being in the 8th grade, we felt like the big kids on campus. Eager for days ahead, facing the world with excitement and anticipation of a great year. Walking home we casually run into Kaitlyn's father delivering water on Main Street. A bit surprised to see us out of class so early, he asked, 'did the school let you out because of the bombing?'
Um. What???
"Someone bombed the Twin Towers"
Instantly, my world began to crumble. You see, I didn't always live in Berkshire County. I was born on Long Island. My family moved here (my mom is a former Adams resident) in 1997 to have a better community to raise their family. My father was a former telecommunications worker in the World Trade Center. For the first three years of my Berkshire County life, my father commuted on weekends back and forth to Long Island. He loved his job in the city and he was able to provide for his family better than many opportunities here in the Berkshires.
My father had left his job about a year prior to the horrific events of that day. Nonetheless I felt hit hard by what was happening. Kaitlyn and I rushed home to find not a bombing, but pure chaos. As the towers fell, I felt my heart shatter. As a young child, not much older than my own daughter is now, I had gone to work with my Dad a couple of times. I had the amazing opportunities to see the cool insides of the building, ride the incredibly fast elevators that made your ears pop, the breathtaking views of the city from the upper levels, the massive computers in the basement. A witness to what was then top of the tech world that is now completely obsolete. When the attacks hit, they not only destroyed buildings, airplanes, or fields; they destroyed lives. Twenty years later people are missing a family member at the table. We're left wondering the "what ifs" and "who would you have become?" I found myself missing a piece of my childhood. 
Memories with my father suddenly ripped to become just that: memories. Something fun and exciting to visit with my own family in the future now demolished to a smoldering pile of rubble. That big 8th-grader that felt so big now feeling smaller like a grain of sand. My mind went to my father's former colleagues and a woman named Betty that worked up near the floor where the towers were struck. (Betty had a soft spot for me and even had a photo of me in her cubicle.) I felt my world come to a screeching halt.
I remember my mom coming home and hugging my dad. The first words out of her mouth to my father 'Thank God you're not there." Later as an adult, I had found that there had been some hardships between my mother and grandmother for moving so far away. That day there was solitude. There was mending among the broken. There was thankfulness and gratitude. The days to come were filled with many tears. I felt alone. Misunderstood. Hollow. Broken and empty. I felt that no one could understand the connection that I developed with a city that was such a big part of my childhood.
Now 20 years later, I have not forgotten. I pray for those missing their loved ones. The hurt and pain and sorrow that so many are wrapped in as the reminders of the events unfold. For years, you could see a flag that previously hung in the World Trade Center outside of my parents' home, now weathered in age and time. A reminder of the unity our nation felt in the days, weeks, and months to follow. A time where race, social status, religion, and political stance didn't matter. We were One Nation. We were all together to support and love one another through what felt like a personal attack to not one but all of us. 
I'm reminded of this as we as a nation are beginning to feel more and more divided with each passing day than we've felt since the civil war, if not the birth of our country. I pray that as we approach this anniversary, that we as a nation can begin to heal again. That we may once again be One Nation. And may choose not to focus on the horrific tragedies of that day, but return to be a nation that lifts one another up in support, love, compassion, friendship, and unity. May we never forget, but once again be One Nation, Under God, Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all.

Michael Eagle

Eagle is the owner of the Studio at the Beaver Mill in North Adams and an online drumming school. He worked a New York University about six or seven years after the attacks.
Question: Were there sort of echoes of 9/11 with the people you worked with? 
A: It was it was always present. It was clearly still a very sensitive conversation so people did not speak of it as openly as I think those of us, west of the Hudson would. We're all obviously impacted by it but no one as much as people that were actually in the city at the time, so yes, my colleagues and, you know, my, my people who were in the city at the time ... even to this day it's not something that I would bring up the way I would with people who are not from New York City.
Q: I sometimes feel like when we do these memorials that we're almost intruding on someone else's grief.
A: In my experience, I think most New Yorkers would agree with that. There it is definitely still too soon. ... We know we can't forget. ... but this is clearly not like anything else, perhaps not even like a lot of our grandparents have dealt with the wars, right, but there seems to be a different sentiment and a different emotion around that than a New Yorker who was present then.  ...
This is a worldwide thing. It was a thing on United States soil so Americans really feel it, but New Yorkers feel differently, and I don't think any of us can understand that unless you are a New Yorker. ... I think those of us who aren't that, we just have to empathize and respect that, and not do anything that they wouldn't want to see done.
Q: What do you you personally remember about 9/11?
A: I think I'm like most people I can recall, almost every minute of that day ... I would have been 20-21 or so, I was an undergrad as a music major. My percussion professor was late, which was weird. ...So he walks in, he says Mr. Eagle, I think we need to watch TV. We turn on the TV and that's right when the second plane happened. We just stood there watching not really knowing what's going on. Maybe 30-45 minutes later he said, I think we need to cancel classics today. I walked out on campus, and people were already acting strange. So I wasn't really digesting what had happened because again we didn't have smartphones and just readily accessible information for everything.
I drove to my apartment, and there were already by 10-11 a.m. long lines of vehicles at every single gas station. I didn't understand why that was. The reaction in that part of the country (Arkansas) was immediately panic over gas and food.


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