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Some vivid memories of Sept. 11

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Sep 12, 2021

Like many people who were adults in 2001, I have a pretty vivid image of the events of Sept. 11 of that year. I watched it all unfold live on TV, and like everyone, I was shocked that this attack on U.S. soil could actually really be happening.

And, I remember wondering what the heck was going on, exactly, and what was going to happen next.

But I was living in rural Southern Minnesota, pretty far from New York, Washington DC, Boston and Pennsylvania. It was not really impacting me directly.

That was not true for everyone, however.

I was visiting with my next door neighbors, Don and Fran Beckendorf, this week, and they have a very strong personal memory of the 9/11 attacks.

The Beckendorfs were with 26 other folks from the Fairmont area on a tour of the East Coast.

They flew into New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on Sept. 8, 2001. The group took a tour around the city that day, a tour that included seeing the World Trade Center.

Then they got on a cruise ship in New York Harbor on Sept 9 and left the city. Many of their fellow travelers took photos of the New York City skyline and Statue of Liberty as they left, photos which included the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

The ship headed north, with stops at Newport, Rhode Island, Martha’s Vineyard Island, Provincetown on Cape Cod, and Boston Harbor, which is right next to the Boston Airport. Boston’s Logan International Airport was where the flights of the attack originated.

The cruise ship was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sept. 11, when they all learned of the events which were unfolding. The Beckendorfs had another reason to be upset, as their daughter, Kim, was to have been on a flight similar to the one which crashed in Pennsylvania. At first they could not contact her, but eventually they did find out she was OK.

Security immediately tightened up for the 2,000 passengers on the ship. Everyone’s luggage and staterooms were searched. And divers were sent under the massive ship to look for any bombs.

The ship started the return trip, and made it back to Boston Harbor. However, they were not allowed to dock, as there was a possible bomb threat there. And, they could not return to New York City, and of course, all flights out of La Guardia Airport, including their scheduled return trip home, had been cancelled.

By that time, everyone on the cruise ship, including the Beckendorfs, just wanted to get safely home. So, two motor coach buses came from Fairmont and picked up their group and drove them back to Fairmont, with stops in Maustin, Wisconsin, and Austin, Minnesota.

Both Don and Fran say they were never so glad to be home as getting back from that trip in 2001.

In the Sept. 20, 2001 front page story in the Fairmont Sentinel, Fran is quoted telling about the trip.

“In retrospect, the trip was the best and worst of times,” she said. “The cruise and the people we met were wonderful, but over it all was the pall of the tragedy of those events.”

She also added, “We thank our tour guides for their help and patience with the travelers who were concerned about getting home in the safest way.”

We were all pretty shook up by those awful events of 9/11. Some of us more than others. It changed the way we felt about our country and our safety and security.

And how we travel and how we feel about traveling.

Just ask my neighbors…