What they’re saying: Area residents recount 9/11 memories

The 9/11 tragedy was a pivotal moment not only for this country, but around the world.

It’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t remember where they were and what they were doing. Recently, some were kind enough to share those memories in a series of video-taped interviews with Freedom New Mexico.

A new mother. A fire chief. A library director. A teenager at home in her native Pakistan. All recalled the sadness and confusion of that day. But their reactions about what it all now means to them a decade later were as varied as their backgrounds.

Here’s a sampling of what some had to say:

Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman was on duty at Station 4 the morning of the attacks. There was a shift change taking place, the television was on in the squad room and the network broke into the “Today Show” with video of the first plane striking the Twin Towers.

When the second airliner struck, Westerman’s training kicked in at the sight of raging fire and choking clouds of smoke.

“We knew what was going to happen with the towers,” he said. “We had predicted that and talked about that.”

When the towers began to pancake, however, even Westerman and the fire crews were stunned.

“It’s something that you never forget,” said Westerman. “I think that everyone will remember where they were on that day.”

A decade later, Westerman said he keeps the faith and believes in the future.

“There will always be a threat out there against America,” he said. “You just put your faith in the system to minimize that. America will move forward.”

Rabiah Memon of Clovis was 16 years old and at home in her native Pakistan. She woke from a nap, snapped on the television and saw a “Breaking News” banner flash across the screen. Then, video of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers.

“We were worried,” she said. “We were thinking there was going to be a war.”

Now as an adult she looks at 9/11 as a sad day for the world, not just the U.S.

“Many people died. There were dozens of Muslims who died in the Twin Towers,” she said. “Terrorists, they don’t really care about what religion you belong to. They just want to kill. That is their religion.”

Maria DeJesus of Friona, now a sophomore at Eastern New Mexico University, remembers it being a sad day but doesn’t believe she really grasped the depth of what happened until several years later.

Now, a criminal justice student, DeJesus said 9/11 is a day that teaches her about the strength of the nation.

“Sometimes you think about it and it’s like, wow, people would actually do something like that.

“I guess,” she said, “we got stronger. Like the nation itself. I guess I feel pride that we’re here. We surpassed it. We kept living after what happened.”

Tawna Luscombe of Portales was at home with her new, 12-day-old baby. Her husband burst in and woke her with the news.

Luscombe remembers being concerned because now there was someone else to think of instead of just she and her husband.

“I think it’s one of the only things that I can think of in my lifetime that I truly remember as one of those standout events,” she said. “And it’s still one of those that really bothers me to watch…the videos and documentaries.”

Denise Burnett, director of the Portales Public Library, got word of the attacks that morning from her daughter, a 911 emergency dispatch operator working in Clovis. Burnett was stunned.

“It was something, I think as an American, we never expect that to happen in our country,” she said. “It’s tragic…so many things in our lives have changed. I think it all makes us realize this freedom that we enjoy in our country,” Burnett said. “Freedom is not to be taken for granted.”

Becky Reeves of Clovis had just arrived at work. She is executive administrator at the Clovis Fire Department. She remembers calling a friend trying to get home from Dallas. He was stuck in the airport because all flights were canceled. She also remembers the shock of realizing it was a terrorist attack and her concern about firefighters and first responders.

“It was just a sad day,” said Reeves.

A decade later, Reeves is bothered by what she believes is complacency in eastern New Mexico and the nation.

“It saddens me,” she said, “that the people haven’t learned any more from what happened and the consequences. That we haven’t moved further forward.

“The patriotism we had at the time,” said Reeves, “has subsided again.”

Cale Bloskas, an ENMU freshman, was in second grade in his small hometown near Lubbock. He remembers confusion and, later, a community service at a local church.

“Just everybody in town was there,” he said.

Now, a decade later, Bloskas believes it was a pivotal moment that helped his generation understand the price of freedom.

“I think that it really strengthened us,” he said. “If we didn’t have a tragedy like this, I don’t think that we would really understand and appreciate the freedoms that we have.”

— Compiled by Freedom content editor Robin Fornoff