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Doreen Stratton: From the Underground--Lost souls of Sept. 11


Everybody remembers where they were on Sept. 11, 2001.

Shortly after 8:30 on that morning I’m driving along the Doylestown Bypass for an appointment with my broker. While listening to the morning talk radio sports hosts joke about some athlete’s faux pas, suddenly one says, “Oh – we just got a bulletin that a plane crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City.”

I ask myself, How does a “… plane … crash” into a World Trade Center building?

I’m in the conference room and the television newscaster’s words drift from the next office, confirming that two jets crashed into each of the World Trade Towers. Then the broker returns to the conference room and announces, “They just hit the Pentagon.” The third attack is aborted over the skies of Somerset County in Western Pennsylvania. This time the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, after learning the tragedies in New York and Washington, D.C., overpower the hijackers and the jet crashes on an empty field.

For the next few weeks like many other Americans I sit in front of my television, mesmerized by the images on the screen. People begin gathering at sites near the destroyed towers posting pictures and messages for their lost loved ones. There are faces upon faces of photos of people who were in those two buildings and are now missing or possibly dead. Media coverage of interviews with relatives, friends or coworkers describe the lives of the missing – where they lived, who they married, their families and where they worked inside the Towers.

The number of Twin Tower deaths eventually reaches 2,606 with an additional 343 firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers, 23 police officers, and two paramedics. All total, nearly 3,000 people died from the three airline hijackings; in the World Trade Towers; and inside the Pentagon. Among that number are 18 Bucks County residents who are memorialized at The Garden of Reflection, located at 1950 Woodside Road in Yardley, where a ceremony is held every September.

In September 2016 I posted a blog about 9/11 about two films connected to the Twin Towers: “Man on Wire,” a 2008 documentary that chronicled Phillippe Petit’s journey to become the only man that walked on a wire between the roofs of the two World Trade Towers on Aug. 7, 1974; and “The Walk,” a 2015 docudrama starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as Petit.

The history of the two towers reaches back decades. The first tenants moved into the North Tower during December 1970. In September 1971, tenants began moving into the South Tower. A character in “The Walk” offhandedly described the towers as “two filing cabinets,” but after Petit’s unbelievable feat two of his friends tell him, “You have given the towers soul!” Another adds, “They’re different now, because you walked up there.”

There’ve been many films on our small and large screens with images of the towers, either with the sun bouncing off the gleaming walls or lights peeking out from the night sky. Whenever the towers briefly appear in films, the words spoken by the characters in “The Walk” are absolute: They are truly “different.”

Just last week I caught a glimpse of the towers on my television screen. And once more, it was like discovering two long-lost souls of Sept. 11.

Always remembered.

This edited post originally appeared in The Bucks Underground Railroad on Sept. 10, 2016.