Off the Northway: One man’s memory of Sept. 11, 2001

Sept. 11, 2001, has joined the list of historic dates — like Dec. 7, 1941, and Nov. 22, 1963 — that

Sept. 11, 2001, has joined the list of historic dates — like Dec. 7, 1941, and Nov. 22, 1963 — that everyone old enough to remember can recall in vivid detail.

It was a cloudless beautiful morning here — a blue sky, with the hint of wistfulness that comes with the first cool mornings of autumn.

I returned from a walk to find my wife watching the “Today” show, very intently. “A plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers,” she explained.

A small plane, I supposed. I knew a plane once hit the Empire State Building. But this was puzzling — it was a perfect weather morning in the city, too. How could a pilot not see it?

It was barely a moment later that a large commercial jet came into the back of the frame, swerved abruptly left, and rammed into the second tower with the spectacular explosion we’ve all seen over and over again.

So this was no accident. I was quick on the uptake with that part. But for many minutes I insistently pondered how a lone wacko could get their hands on an idle jet over in Newark. Hijacking didn’t occur to me. It had been decades since anyone wanted to get to Havana that badly.

Once reports began to come in about planes being hijacked out of Boston, things began to fall into place. That’s when the world changed, at least for me.

We stayed glued to the television until an editor called. It was a few minutes after the first tower — shockingly — wasn’t there anymore. I had thought somehow heroes would put the fire out.

The editor dispatched me to a local outpost of the military-industrial complex to see if they were on heightened alert. Duh.

“I’m going get a gun pointed at me,” I cheerily said as I headed out the door.

I didn’t, but the guard emphatically didn’t welcome me.

That’s one man’s memory of Sept. 11. After that, the day became a blur, and so did the week. This paper shifted into high gear to cover a tragedy that inevitably directly touched a lot of local people.

It’s hard to remember now all the uncertainty families faced in the first days — so many of the dead simply vanished. On the third day, I talked to the daughter-in-law and step-daughter of Diane Parsons, a state Taxation and Finance Department employee (and local restaurant hostess) from Malta who worked at the WTC only once every two weeks. They “feared the worst,” but they didn’t know.

After a few days, a memorial service was scheduled, and there her son Frank may have drawn the best brave lesson that could be drawn: “Her death was caused by blind hatred. We cannot allow ourselves to sink to that. May she rest in peace.”

Tomorrow morning, church bells across the region will ring out to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, as they did on the first anniversary. There will be too many 9/11 services to keep track of.

In Ballston Spa, photographer Michael Noonan will climb the bell tower stairs at the old Chocolate Factory and ring its huge old bell six different times between 8:46 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., marking the moments of the four plane crashes and two tower collapses. He’s done it every year.

“It’s just something I think is good to be done,” Noonan said.

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