September 11, 2002
Billings remembers Sept. 11 attacks
From community celebrations of the American spirit to quiet moments of reflection and prayer, Billings joined the country in remembering not only the date - Sept. 11 - but the effect that the singular date has had on our lives. The following is a look at how the day unfolded:
American Legion and church bells in Billings toll to mark the moment when American Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
For many listening to radio or watching television, they hear only silence as the nation marks the first anniversary of the start of the day of terror.
"I'm gonna cry," admits
Cole was among about 250 people at a sunrise all-faiths service at the town square between St. John's Lutheran Home and Mission Ridge on Billings' West End. Faiths represented included Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i, Native American and Buddhist.
"With all the different faiths here, it exemplified the understanding and reaching out," Cole said. "We cannot be individuals, we belong and believe."
Silence on TV and radio stations marks when United Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Again, church bells ring, joining bells at the American Legion in Billings.
At the precise moment
They first sound the siren. When the siren fell quiet, Deputy Fire Marshal Mike Spini stepped forward and somberly lowered the American flag to half mast.
As the flag sunk, Spini said he had one simple thought: "I hope this never happens again."
Fire Marshal Frank Odermann stood at Spini's side in salute, the morning sun dappling across the green grass at his feet. Odermann's thoughts were with the New York City firefighters and police officers who died one year ago and their families.
"I feel a deep sense of remembrance of all those people, not just law enforcement and firefighters, but everyone, as well as the people who are still fighting the war," Odermann said.
Kim Woeste pulls a cord to ring the Montana State University-Billings bell in a ceremonial "3-5."
The three sets of five rings, a traditional way firefighters honor fallen comrades, marked the time that one year ago that the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
The siren at Billings Fire Station No. 1 sounded again, this time to mark the collapse of the second building. Odermann and Spini again approached the flag pole, and the flag was temporarily raised to full flight. The fire chief asked for a moment of silence.
Church bells rang in the distance.
After more than 20 minutes of silent reflection by the small crowd that had gathered at MSU-Billings' Peaks to Plains Park, Kim Woeste rang the three sets of five rings once more to remember the fall of the center's north tower.
Woeste, the MSU-Billings campus minister, had rung the bell 15 times earlier at 7:43 a.m. and again at 8 a.m., to signal the times, respectively, that the Pentagon was hit by a plane flown by terrorists and United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania a year ago.
"I found it hard to ring the bell" because of the profound feelings that it evoked, Woeste said after the ceremony.
The MSU-Billings bell, which hangs from a rock and girder frame on the rolling lawn of the park, was worthy of its duty. The large silver bell was once owned by the Maverick Hose Company, one of Billings' first fire departments.
In between the ringing of the bell, Woeste asked those gathered to remember everyone whose lives ended or were changed by the Sept. 11 attacks.
Several times during the ceremony, the MSU-Billings carillon played the "Star Spangled Banner" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
A large American flag that had been unfurled and hung over the Rimrocks formed a backdrop behind the campus.
A line of people
The carnations are red, "but that's only because the shipments of the white and blue carnations didn't come in on time," said Gainan's sales associate Marci Albin.
Albin said for 15 minutes, she and co-workers simply handed out carnations to the many people waiting.
"It was very emotional," Albin said, and the people in line "were very quiet, and very polite when they asked if they could have some for their co-workers. You could definitely tell there was a lot of emotion in the air."
Firefighters follow police officers to a free breakfast in their honor at the U.S. Army Reserve Center, 1403 Broadwater Ave. Volunteers served more than 300 meals of bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes, biscuits, juice and coffee, much of it donated by area businesses.
Dave Rahn of the American Legion played "Taps," and Assistant Fire Chief Paul Gerber recited the 91st Psalm from memory.
"I chose the psalm myself," Gerber said. "I recite it to myself every morning when I come to work. It gives me comfort to know that God is watching over me throughout the day."
While Rahn and Gerber were in front of the audience, Tom Russell was in the kitchen, ready to serve more food. Russell joined other volunteers from the Chapel of Hope Assembly of God church to help with the event.
"I felt like I was in pretty good hands when I saw all these men who are taking care of us," Russell said. "It was the same when the police officers were here. I'm just glad they're on my side. They're wonderful people."
Later, as Staff Sgt. Glenn Myers watched another fire engine pull up loaded with firefighters, he reflected on the event he helped organize.
"It's our pleasure to do this. We don't do enough for these folks."
Kathy Gonzales joins four of her co-workers to pick up one of Gainan's red carnations.
"It's just a way to remember," she said. "I think it's really great Gainan's is doing this."
Rick Batten prepares to board a flight at Billings Logan International Airport to Denver, then to Los Angeles, then to his home in Japan where he is stationed with the Department of Defense. He had spent the past week in Glendive attending a family funeral.
Is he worried about flying on Sept. 11?
"I personally don't have a problem with it," he said. A tall, physically fit man, Batten said he intends to tell a stewardess when he boards "if anyone starts acting insane, I'll take them down."
Elsewhere in the terminal, Wayne Sengelaub prepares for his flight to Minneapolis en route to his Michigan home.
"I feel as safe now as ever," he said. He has been on vacation in Billings for the past week.
His sister-in-law, Jeanne Wallin of Fort Myers, Fla., said she booked their flights several months ago.
"I thought this would be the safest day to go," she said.
Organizers at the senior citizen's meal site at St. Bernard's Parish, 226 Wicks Lane, planned a 9/11 presentation with patriotic songs and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars showing how to properly fold a flag.
One of the preparers talked as she put ground coffee into the percolator.
"I'll tell you what makes me sad," she said. "We have this big to-do with 9/11, but our boys got none of this when they returned from Vietnam. It just doesn't seem right."
She asked that her name not appear in the Gazette.
Russ Hall and Mike Winsor
"I just think we need to remember (the 9/11 attacks) and show support for our leaders and our country and be grateful we live in the country we live in," Hall said. "Our parents remembered Pearl Harbor. This is a day we will never forget. I don't think we can afford to forget."
A few yards away, Winsor said he got a lump in his throat as he listened to the Rev. Hilton McClendon sing "The Star Spangled Banner."
"I feel a lot of love for the men and women who fight to protect us," he said.
"Being here brings back a lot of memories. I have a dear friend who worked in the 84th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers. He wasn't working that day and I'm very thankful for that.
"Just watching the coverage on TV, seeing the towers fall, tears well up in my eyes whenever I see it. I just think about what we lost and what we're gaining back, slowly but surely."
Gazette reporters Mary Pickett, Jim Gransbery, Greg Tuttle and John Fitzgerald contributed to this report.
©Copyright 2002, Billings Gazette