09/11/06 — Not forgotten: Five years later, memory still fresh for many in Wayne

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Not forgotten: Five years later, memory still fresh for many in Wayne

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 11, 2006 1:49 PM

As members of the Goldsboro Fire Department's C-Shift gathered around the American flag at 8:46 this morning with their heads bowed in prayer, many said they could still picture where they were when news that American Airlines Flight 11 had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center broke.

Other Goldsboro and Wayne County residents, too, reflected this morning -- looking back five years.

It was a day much like today, they said.

8:46 a.m.

Fire Department engineer David Grice was in his car when the song on the radio was interrupted for a "special report," he said. Once he heard the scene described, he knew there was fire -- and a need for responders just like him.

"My heart went out to the guys who were there," Grice said. "In a way, I knew what they were up against."

Responders put their lives on the line everyday, he added. But after the terrorist attacks on New York, he thought about what might happen if a similar incident occurred here at home -- and finally understood just how dangerous the next call might be.

"The Goldsboro Fire Department would have done the same thing that day," Grice said. "Each call we get could be the last one we go out on."

Assistant Fire Chief Eric Lancaster agreed.

"(9/11) really brought it home -- how dangerous the job really is," he said. "Everyday, we will continue to train and prepare. Each time we get a call we'll expect the worst and hope for the best."

Firefighter Taj Polack is a native New Yorker and was substitute teaching here when he got the news. He was "terrified" when he turned on the television moments later, he said.

"I remember seeing the first plane hit the building," Polack said. "A few minutes later, the second one hit. My first thought, I was worried. But my feelings went from concern to terror almost immediately."

As he hung his head during the moment of silence this morning, he prayed for those who lost their lives and their families.

"I'm a Christian," Polack said. "I pray every day. I remember the families who are still devastated ... I always try to keep them in my thoughts."

Across town, the air surrounding the Goldsboro Post Office was silent.

Postmaster Sonny Johnson remembered the moment that had left him in disbelief exactly five years earlier.

"I was in a meeting when the first plane hit," he said. "I had a feeling of disbelief and not understanding exactly what was happening. I was pretty angry. I had a sense of helplessness."

Looking back on the events that transpired that morning still hurts, Johnson said.

"I have some mixed feelings," he said. "I'm not sure exactly what would cause those kinds of actions. I'm just a little confused. Nothing in my life prepared me for anything like that."

9:02 a.m.

As news of the first crash spread across the city, county and country, scared and angry residents turned on their televisions and radios. As broadcasters read from eyewitness accounts, they watched a second crash unfold in the background.

This time it was the South Tower that had been hit. American Airlines Flight 175's plight had been captured on a live feed.

Fast-forward five years.

Brenda Metz of the Boys and Girls Club sat in the same chair she had been sitting in when the second plane made impact -- it still feels like yesterday, she said.

"It's hard to believe it's been five years," Mrs. Metz said. "It was just incredible, I guess. I can't really tell you (what I was thinking). Everything around here just stopped."

At 9:02 five years ago, teller supervisor Patsy May was at the BB&T on Ash Street. When she heard the news she was "devastated."

"I was at work behind the teller line when the second plane hit," she said. "Somebody came in and told us that the first plane had hit and we got our little portable TV and put it behind the teller line. I saw the second plane hit ... It was awful. I can't imagine being up there."

9:37 a.m.

Many said after the second plane hit, they thought the attacks were over. Just more than a half an hour later, they said they realized just how wrong they were.

Another news break. Another plane crash. This time, at the Pentagon.

Agricultural Extension agent Eileen Coite took special note of the third crash.

"When the Pentagon happened, in particular, I was very concerned because that's where my aunt and uncle worked," she said. "They were working that day, but actually were not in the building when the plane hit. It was hours before I found that out, though."

Five years to the minute later, despite the fact that it is her birthday, Mrs. Coite is still saddened by the memories of that fatal day.

"Today I continue to be sad about it," she said. "It's an added reminder to me because every year it's hard to be happy -- it being my birthday -- when something terrible like that has happened on that day."