On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working in my office at 605 Main St. in Laurel. Like every other typical workday, I was coordinating our fire protection engineers through project work until I heard on the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought this odd but pretty serious, so I went upstairs to the Laurel Leader office to look at their TV set and get further information. While there with now-editor Melanie Dzwonchyk, then-editor Joe Murchison and many other staff, we all witnessed the second plane hit the second tower. At that time, we were all shocked and scared of what was happening and, worse yet, what is next. We briefly discussed the terrible event and why someone would do such a bad thing. My next focus was to get back downstairs and be available by phone if the Federal Emergency Management Agency called for deployment. For a brief time, we tried to continue working on projects while listening to the news on the radio. At approximately 9:45 a.m. the radio reporter stated that a plane had just hit the Pentagon. Within minutes one of my engineers came to me and stated that FEMA called and requested me to deploy/respond to the incident. I immediately headed home to get my FEMA gear and responded to the Fire Academy (our team rallying point), then to the Pentagon by about 1:30 p.m. I stayed and worked at the Pentagon incident for 10 days.
NOTE: Thomas Stanton, a fourth-generation Laurel volunteer firefighter, served as a member of Maryland Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team. As head of Stanton Engineering Services, he had redesigned the fire-protection system for the Pentagon shortly before 9/1.
Dorie and Dave Ranaghan, Laurel
"Our friends, Janet and Karlene, lived in an apartment complex directly across from the towers. When we saw the second plane plunge in, we understood that it was an attack and tried to call. No answer, of course. Karlene was at work in Manhattan; Janet was in the apartment when it was filled with debris, including a piece of plane, from the towers collapsing. It was impossible to find purse, glasses, any ID, phone, etc. She had to flee down the stairs to the police launches and was deposited on the Jersey shore to walk miles to a bridge to cross back into the central city. Janet finally reached Karlene's office to let her, and later us, know she was alive. A kind friend took them in and later the Red Cross housed them for weeks. When days later, they were able to return for a few minutes to assess the damage, there was nothing in their place that wasn't filled with the dust of the disaster: furniture, clothes, keepsakes, even the refrigerator. But, thank God, they were alive. We were all remembering that horrible time this week as they were evacuated from Battery Park City for Hurricane Irene."
Jennifer Molinari, Columbia
"I was getting ready to leave for work. It was an amazingly beautiful day. I remember feeling so happy. My husband and I had just moved in to our new house and the future looked so bright. When the radio came on in the car, I heard Peter Jennings talking. I knew something big must have happened. I realized he was talking about a plane flying into one of the towers. The belief then was that it was an accident. As I was pulling into work, the second plane hit the second tower. I was horrified and in shock! I didn't want to go to work anymore. I wanted to be at home with my husband. I knew we were under attack. Ironically, my husband and I had just been in New York two weeks earlier and had taken our picture in front of the twin towers. Everything was surreal. I will never forget the lives lost and the heroes that saved lives."