Tag Archives: September 11

From Huntingdon to Huntington

17 Jul

Last week, we made a short trip Pennsylvania. My wife has family in Huntingdon, a small town in the central part of the state, and they invited us to stay at their home for a few days. We used that time to explore and a great tour of a small college. Here are the highlights.

On the first day, we drove through five states – Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It was a long drive through Appalachia, but we saw some beautiful landscapes. When we left the interstate around Altoona, we did not realize that we would not be on the interstate for a few more days. Instead, we would be taking back roads through farmland.

On the second day, we passed through some of that farmland on the way to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hersheypark was our destination. The girls rode a ton of rides while my wife and I rode a few. I must be getting old because the monorail was my favorite because it took us by part of the old Hershey factory.

One of these days, I am going to get back there and check out the history of chocolate.

Oh yeah, we had a slight surprise when we got back to Huntingdon. We went to a local restaurant for dinner, and my wife order a salad with grilled chicken. She received a salad topped with grilled chicken and french fries. She was, in a word, appalled. We later learned that french fries on salad is a central Pennsylvania thing. I guess it is like grits is a southern thing. Although, I can handle french fries on a salad better than I can handle grits.

On the third day, we got educational. Huntingdon is home to Juniata College, and the family we were visiting used to be the president and first lady of the liberal arts institution.

It is a beautiful campus with a great quad for student to gather. I think my stepdaughter liked it until she saw the dorm room. We had to explain that what she saw is pretty typical for dorm rooms.

After that, we drove a short distance to State College to the campus of Penn State. This was not an official visit. I simply wanted to see the football stadium. Of course, I had to wear the colors of my team behind enemy lines.

I was also told to go to the Creamery. It was a great suggestion. The ice cream was awesome.

On the fourth day, we headed west to two sites that my wife and I really wanted to visit. This was a day to show my stepdaughter and her friend something about our past. After a bit of a drive through the countryside, we arrived at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

On September 11, 2001, the flight was hijacked, and the passengers learned of the other hijackings through calls to their loved ones. At some point, the passengers decided to attack the terrorists. As they struggled, the plane crashed into a field.

It is a sobering place to visit. For those of us who remember, it brings back memories of that terrible day. For those of us who do not remember, it brings questions of what happened. For all of us, it provides a true example of heroism.

As I walked through the museum and over the grounds, I kept wondering what the passengers were thinking. Did they know they were going to crash somewhere and wanted to make sure it was not another building? Did they think they could take over and have a chance at landing the plane? All we know is that they prevented the plane from hitting something in Washington, D.C., which was only 20 minutes away. Investigators think the plane was heading for Capitol Hill.

After visiting the memorial, we drove through more countryside. This time we really hit some back roads and passed farm after farm. Finally, we made it to Fallingwater, the home famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. My wife and I visited another of his designs earlier in the year, but this is the iconic one that I have always wanted to see.

He designed the home for the Kaufmann family, who wanted a view of the waterfall on their land. Instead, Wright built it on the waterfall.

Amazingly, the house was built during the midst of the Great Depression.

When we left Fallingwater, we headed toward home but could not make it all the way. We stopped in Huntington, West Virginia for the night. The girls stayed at the hotel and watched Netflix while we went to dinner. We found a great place near downtown called Savannah’s and took a table on their patio. Our waitress was a local student who was majoring in History and Anthropology. Now, she has the right idea.


Memories of a Day in September

11 Sep

Early in this foray into blogging, I wrote a post about collective memory – those moments in time when most people remember where they were and what they were doing when events happened. The attack on Pearl Harbor. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. The explosion of the Challenger. All of these are examples of moments of collective memory in American history. Obviously, today marks the anniversary of another time most people remember – the attacks on 9/11.

We all have memories, but it is difficult to hold on to them. Over time, we hear other people talk about their memories. We watch television reports over and over. Before we know it, that information gets combined with information we already have. For historians, memory is a tricky aspect of research. Obviously, it is important to hear the stories of people who took part in an event. However, those stories should be told as soon as possible because none of us are immune to hindsight.

I know where I was when the attacks on the World Trade Center took place. I was in my first semester of teaching, and, as the new kid on the block, I was volunteered to teach an off campus class. This meant getting up super early and driving to a police station in Nashville. There I would teach government employees who were working on their degrees.

On September 11, 2001, I was showing a video about Hernan Cortez conquering the Aztec. At some point during the movie, there was activity in the hallway, and one of the students, an employee of the FBI, kept checking his pager. Other than that, I sensed nothing going on.

When class was over, I walked through the hallway and passed an office with a television. It showed one of the towers with smoke coming out of it. I watched for a while before getting in my car and driving to school. I turned on the radio and called my girlfriend to see if she had heard. But, the call really wasn’t about what was happening in New York. She had broken up with me, and I was looking for any excuse to call her. I don’t remember much about the conversation, but I know it was one of the last conversations we had.

This is where my memory begins to fade. On that day, I knew that I would not forget anything that was going on, but that didn’t happen. As time passes some details begin to alter themselves. Did I call my parents to see if they were watching? I’m not sure. What did I do when I got to campus? I’m not sure about that, either.

I know that classes were cancelled not long after I arrived, and most people were watching television in the student lounge. Was I watching television in the lounge when the second plane hit, or did that happen while I was in the car? Did I watch as the towers fell? I honestly can’t tell you. I have seen those images so many times that it all gets jumbled up in my mind.

I am a historian, and this was a historic event. As it was all happening, I made a mental note to keep these moments clearly in my brain, but that hasn’t happened. I remember how I felt, but the details are slowly escaping me.

As a historian, I know that memoirs and interviews need to be studied carefully. As a person who experienced 9/11, it is difficult for me to explain to people that their memories may not be as accurate as they think. I’m not saying that memories are invalid. I’m saying that memories evolve through the years.

All of that was rambling, and I am not sure where I was headed when this post began. Posts about 9/11 will be all over the internet, and this is just one by a person who was in the middle of Tennessee when it happened. My memories aren’t important in the scope of that huge event. They are one part of a huge collection of memories – a collection that is changing all of the time.