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Memories from a decade of 9/11

Fear, shock and disbelief consumed Americans 10 years ago when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people. It doesn't matter where you were; the 9/11 attacks had an effect -- uniting the country in mourning and in vowing to not let the terrorists win.

As the nation stops today to remember, Tri-Citians also stop to remember where they were Sept. 11, 2001, and how the day changed many lives forever.

"It was a tremendous shock," said Herman Ott, 62. "I was driving to work and heard it on the radio. It was just frightening."

Ott, who moved to Richland a year ago after retiring, worked for the federal government in New Jersey at the time. He once worked in lower Manhattan and watched as the World Trade Center was being built.

"I just couldn't fathom the buildings coming down," he said. "When I watched them when they built it, it looked like it was solid steel going up."

Sadness is a common way to describe how people feel when thinking about the attacks, but there are some people who say they weren't affected much.

"It's not something I think about," said Katherine Pardini, 53, of Kennewick. "There's always danger in the world, that's nothing new, it just brought it a little closer, that's all."

Pardini, a medical transcriptionist, said she has never liked to fly, "so that part of my life has not changed."

Others, however, say they became more aware of their surroundings, lost a little of their sense of security and felt an increased patriotism.

Jennifer Brown of Kennewick said she doesn't feel as safe as she used to.

"Whenever I have to fly somewhere for training or an expo, I wonder who's sitting next to me," she said. "It's a constant worry about what will happen next."

But Brown also sees a positive effect on Americans since the attack.

"I see a lot more flags flying and American spirit since 9/11," she said. "I think people are much more patriotic than they used to be."

Steven Evans is one of those people who say the attack instilled a stronger sense of patriotism.

"When something as devastating as 9/11 happens, you rethink being American and how we take that for granted a lot," the Kennewick man said.

Evans recalled watching in "utter shock" as the twin towers came crashing down.

"It's one of those moments you never forget," he said. "I will always remember exactly what I was doing on that fateful day. Moments like that stay with you forever. It was so surreal, and it never leaves you."

Paul Franzmann of Walla Walla said his patriotism has always been strong and he refuses to live his life in fear.

"While I never felt unsafe after 9/11, I feel more than safe now with all the effort that has gone on to ensure terrorist activities are minimized," he said.

And though he has never feared traveling before or after 9/11, he said he doesn't like all the changes in travel.

"Mostly, I dislike the personal intrusions in place at airports," he said. "It's not much fun to pay a premium price (for an airline ticket) then to be treated so shabbily regardless of whatever safety factor may be at issue. I just go about things with a positive attitude and hope for the best."

Steve Chickenfingerfish, 38, of Kennewick, said the 9/11 terrorist attacks have added a lot of new regulations to his life.

"As a truck driver, it's added more expenses like security background checks we have to go through, and that costs money," he said. "If you're working for a company when your date comes up -- each truck driver has a certain date it must be done -- the company pays for it. But, if you're trying to get a job or are new to trucking, you have to pay, and it costs hundreds of dollars.

"If you live here the regulations have increased," Chickenfingerfish added. "Yet at the same time a truck from another country, with maybe inadequate brakes and who knows what's inside, can drive in the United States."

Asked if he fears there will be another terrorist attack, he answered, "Yes, there's no reason to think it wouldn't happen."

That sentiment is echoed by Earline Pattillo of Kennewick, who said it's possible the next terrorist attack won't come from overseas.

"It's sad, very sad, given that we live in such a great nation," the 63-year-old retiree said. "We've taken it for granted too long. It's time to work to improve it."

Pattillo said the attacks made her aware of how vulnerable the nation is.

"Americans have been so naive for years, 9/11 was kind of a wake-up call," she said. "The rest of the world has had to deal with things like that for a long, long time. We were naive to think it wouldn't happen here."

Ott, who grew up in Queens and New York and knew of some of the people who died -- some were friends of friends, said the attacks likely made people more conscious of their mortality.

"Some of the people seeing people jumping out of the building, it was just so traumatic. It's something that ordinary Americans are not in touch with," he said. "We haven't had any other attacks in 10 years. It's not to say it can't happen again, but we have to remain vigilant."

It's a dangerous world and people need to remain on guard, but Ott said they can't let the attacks change their entire lifestyle either.

"We've got a lot of freedoms in this country that people before 9/11 fought hard for, and we just don't want to throw it out the window," he said. "We have to find a balance of some sort and do what we can to protect ourselves."

Even though a decade has passed, Ott said he can "vividly recall it as if it was yesterday," and what gets to him the most is the stories about people who lost their lives trying to save others.

"There were many tremendous acts of heroism -- people rising to the occasion," he said. "When you read stuff like that, it brings tears to your eyes."

Remembering those who were killed -- and how tragedy brought the country together -- is what Cyndi Hildman will do today to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

"I appreciate the first responders and the selflessness people had to help other and how we've come together as a country," said the 42-year-old Kennewick woman. "Not everyone is for the war, but we've definitely come together in support of our country. It's something I believe we needed that was missing."

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