Sharing memories of 9/11

Memories of Sept. 11, 2001 are strong with state Rep. Craig Williams. Williams, R 160, was an attorney living and working in New York when the attacks came. He shared some of those memories — along with a challenge to treat people better — with a small crowd that gathered for the annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Brandywine Battlefield Park on Saturday evening.

"It's been a tough day, much tougher than I anticipated it was going to be. Leaving Afghanistan was much tougher than I thought it was going to be. Seeing the images on TV after fighting a war on terror for 20 years that started on this date 20 years ago. All of it coming together today at this moment on this battlefield somehow feels almost poetic," he said.

He asked the crowd to remember where they were 20 years ago when they first heard what was happening, recall those mental images, and know that everyone has their own story about that moment, just as a previous generation had with Pearl Harbor.

Williams remembered hearing about the first plane hitting the first tower as he was getting ready to go to work at a law firm. By the time he reached the office, his colleagues were on the balcony on 41st Street watching the first building burn.

"I was in the conference room with other colleagues watching on TV when the second plane hit. And just like for you, no matter where you were, you knew in that moment exactly why that second plane hit the second tower. It was no longer an accident. And within minutes, what did we hear? Another plane hit the Pentagon. And then, an hour later, we heard about Flight 93 here in Pennsylvania. And then we knew we were vulnerable. We knew we were under attack."

One of his lasting memories of that day was a yellow sky, like those he saw growing up in Alaska after a volcano eruption, the sky discolored by falling ash and soot. It was one of two times when New York City went silent.

"That city is never quiet. There's always car horns, there's always music, and there's always people yelling. The city is never quiet except after a snowstorm and on Sept. 12, the next day."

Williams went on to say that on the 11th after the planes hit, people were rushing to get off Manhattan Island. There was pandemonium with people trying to get away while others, first responders, were rushing toward danger "to help others, to defend our freedom…Those are my lasting memories."

He then reflected on technological advances during these last 20 years, that we didn't have cell phone cameras. Those cell phones were simply communication devices. People just made phone calls with them. And then he mused on how the Battle of Brandywine would have turned out on Sept. 11, 1777, had colonists in the area had the ability of instant communication with Gen. George Washington to let him know exactly where the British troops were, that they were outflanking Washington's army.

Then he asked a rhetorical question: "What are we doing with our technology now?"

He said people are upset and angry, especially in the greater Chads Ford area now following the major flooding that took place 10 days earlier.

"People are still upset and angry about that. Voicing it on social media, calling my office more angry than extending a hand to someone. Reading the news about Afghanistan, more angry than they are trying to extend a hand to a veteran who's truly crying on the inside about the images he sees on TV."

He reminded people of the images of the flooding, how the village of Chadds Ford was completely underwater and how people in Pocopson were not only underwater but saw their homes pushed off the foundations and moved 150 yards downstream.

"…We need to start taking care of each other… Stop being red versus blue. Stop being the person who has to comment on social media and look to your neighbor…We can do better and that's my challenge to you when we come back here in 20 years to commemorate Sept. 11."

Following Williams, Carl Closs, as Gen. Washington, read Washington's letter to John Hancock about the loss at Chadds Ford in 1777.



About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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