Twenty years ago today – on Sept. 11, 2001 – Greater Grand Forks united in fear, in patriotism and in grief, according to the Herald archives. The newspaper’s reporters that day took the temperature of a city that, like so many communities across the nation, was obviously shocked.
For most, that day will never be forgotten. It is burned into the national psyche, much like the day John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 or when the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986.
Greater Grand Forks, the Herald reported 20 years ago, was stunned.
Shortly after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania farm field, civilian flights nationwide were grounded. Passengers that were diverted to Grand Forks felt a sense of relief and safety when their planes touched down at Grand Forks International Airport.
“I was praying we could land,” an Oklahoman who was en route from Saskatoon to Minneapolis told the Herald.
Red River teacher Mike Bisenius told Herald columnist Ryan Bakken that in local classrooms, “everyone just sat in shock.” Jeff Holth, at the time a senior at Red River High School, wisely told Bakken that “I think we’re living history today.”
School corridors were quiet, Bakken reported.
The Herald’s Steve Lee reported that “people around Grand Forks went to their God, drew their faith, and turned to their friends in response to the acts of terror Tuesday in New York, Washington and near Pittsburgh.”
At Catholic churches, people came to pray the Rosary, he wrote. Later that day, more than 100 people came to Grace Baptist Church to pray together.
In another report filed shortly after the attacks, Lee wrote that “in Grand Forks, as everywhere, people were glued to television sets, watching the horror unfold, shaking their heads in disbelief. They called loved ones around the country. They headed for their congregations to pray with others and talk.”
The Rev. Phyl Putz told Lee that he predicted the 9/11 attacks would be “a turning-point event.”
For years, America had avoided large-scale tragedy, Putz said at the time.
“We will never view life in America again like we have viewed it up until now,” he said.
It’s been 20 years, but the memories still are sharp and the anniversary – which has brought the attacks back to the news – reminds us that we haven’t recovered. We probably never will.
We still feel remorse for those who died and for those who have suffered since. We feel pride when we are reminded of the many acts of kindness and unity that sprang up in the aftermath of the attacks. We feel a swell of patriotism and appreciation for those many Americans who have fought to quell terrorism throughout the world since then.
Twenty years after 9/11, a deep hurt remains. Yet we believe the nation’s reaction in those uncertain days – a reaction of sadness, but also of unity and genuine care for each other – must remain among the memories as the years pass.
God bless America on this sad anniversary.