By VICKI BROWN
The Press and Standard interviewed Colleton citizens after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Portions of the interviews and editorials are included here as a memorial on the twentieth anniversary of the attacks on our nation.
Allyson Haynes, from Walterboro, was an attorney working at a law firm located directly across the street from the World Trade Center. That building, which also housed Nasdaq, collapsed on Wednesday after the attacks on Tuesday.
Haynes watched the towers fall from her apartment, which was without water and power after the incident.
“The thought that I could never go back to my office is really strange, said Haynes. “You keep waiting to wake up and it be over. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s really strange to me because I live and work here. The World Trade Center itself was what I walked through to get to my office. My optometrist’s office was there, my bank was there…everything I do day to day was there,” she said.
Paul and Stella Jones, former Walterboro residents were there also. Paul was a conductor at the subway. Paul was riding one of the tunnels under the WTC when he received a call that a plane had just crashed into one of the towers over him.
He looked up as he came out of the tunnel and saw another plane dive into the other tower. “A huge ball of flame shot out of the building,” he told his sister-in-law Rolets Buckner of Walterboro. “Shocked, numbed people were screaming and running about aimlessly, not knowing where to go.”
“As I was driving away, the other tower fell. “People were hanging from the building, he said. “Some were flying out from the blast, some were jumping, and scores of them were just hanging onto the side of the building.”
“Everybody wanted to help,” said Paul. “There was no black or white or Hispanic – no Democrat or Republican – no Christian or Jew – everybody was family.”
Shekeila Hutchinson, native of Walterboro, was working at her office at the Pentagon. Everyone was gathered around a television in her office, watching the events unfold at the WTC.
“All of a sudden, there was this loud noise like an explosion,” said Hutchinson. “Then it was just like we were having an earthquake. It felt like you had to grab a hold of something to keep from falling.” After the initial impact, which penetrated deeper into the Pentagon and started a fire, Hutchinson found herself thrust into the mass confusion and hysteria of the moment.
At first, they put us on lockdown,” she said. “Then some people came in and told us to evacuate, that we were in harm’s way. We made it out of the front door, but there was so much smoke, you couldn’t see anything.”
Hutchinson said that what she found outside was like a scene from a movie.
“There were people lying on the ground and there were people running around telling us to run that we were bleeding or hurt badly, and I didn’t even realize it,” she said.
Local missionary and pastor Dr. Zane Brown went to N.Y. with a team to counsel and assist victims after the attack.
“People walk down the street in a daze, like they don’t know where they are or where to go,” said Brown. “They are just looking for someone to tell their story to. Almost everyone knew someone who had been in that building. Much of the city is trying to resume working while there are still a lot of grieving families missing loved ones,” he added.
In Colleton, veterans, such as F.M. Smoak, 85, were thrown back in time as they remembered Pearl Harbor’s attack. Smoak said that Tuesday’s attack brought back painful memories. “It was rough. It got next to me.”
John Carter said, “There’s no comparison between Pearl Harbor and Tuesday’s attack except that both were sneak attacks. At Pearl Harbor, we knew our enemy,” he said.
“What makes me so mad is that our security was so bad that they could take our own planes and use them against us, and it didn’t cost them a thing,” said Harris Johns of Smoaks.
In honor of those who lost their lives, on Wednesday after the attack, Walterboro Fire Chief Wayne Lake worked with fire fighters and police to put flags down Main Street while Captain David Green, Barry McCroy, Colleton Fire Rescue, and volunteers raised funds to send to N.Y.
"Over 300 firefighters paid the ultimate price,” said Barry McRoy. “They ran in the building as everyone else ran out.”
According to Tay Smith who was editor at the time, life would never be the same. Locally, Colleton’s National Guard Armory went on a state of alert, placing barbed razor wire around the entrance. More young people answered the call to join the military, and flags went to half-mast throughout the county. And probably for the first time ever, Colleton County stores ran out of flags.
Twenty years later most people aren’t really sure if any progress was made at all, but for those who were there….that day will never be forgotten.