Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: A day to remember

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Sep. 11—There are moments and days that stand out in the memories of everyone over the years.

There are days when there is a birth or death in a family, wedding days, graduations and those that are just pleasant memories.

The collective memories of a nation also include days that will forever be a part of history.

Since I was born in 1948, those days include the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

There was the moon landing in 1969 and the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

But none stands out more dramatically than the events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001.

That morning I was home in Lapel getting ready to head to work when my wife, Kelly, called to tell me an airplane had struck the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.

My initial reaction was disbelief. Then I remembered that an airplane hit the Empire State Building in 1945.

Quickly moving to the nearest television, the view included clear blue skies in New York City, so it was hard to believe the images being shown.

Then at 9:03 a.m., the second plane crashed into the second World Trade Center tower.

At that point I knew America was under attack. Of course, that news was followed of a third plane hitting the Pentagon and a fourth that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Two thoughts raced through my mind.

The first was that I probably had cousins working in Manhattan and the second was to get to the offices of The Herald Bulletin.

That day, THB published an extra edition that hit the streets that afternoon. It was a combined effort of many people at the newspaper to make it happen.

The only other special edition of a newspaper I could remember was when JFK was shot and Newsday, the newspaper on Long Island, printed a special edition.

For weeks and months, journalists around the country worked to bring news and human interest stories to Americans on a daily basis.

Several times during the day I called my parents in New York to get word on my relatives. There was no response for several hours.

I finally learned that night that my cousins were OK, but had to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get home that day.

In the days and weeks that followed, the American people came together in displays of patriotism and a renewed interest in faith — emotions that hadn't been seen in America since the Kennedy assassination.

Since that day 20 years ago, Kelly and I have traveled to ground zero and several times to the memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The first time we visited Pennsylvania, there was only a chain link fence with messages and police and fire department emblems on display.

It was a sobering experience to stand on that site and realize that workers watched the passenger plane plummet into the ground.

When we visited ground zero, emotions took over. Nearby is the New York City Fire Department station across from the site where so many brave firefighters rushed to their deaths.

There's the reflecting pool with the names of those that died.

We will always remember that on the cold and windy day of our visit there was a single white rose on one of the tablets.

We mark each anniversary, but we should never forget that Americans stood united.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at or 765-640-4863.

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