By Sue Swan
My recollection of the happenings of Sept. 11 are very vivid just as if it were yesterday. I was attending the Montana Public Health Conference in Billings that morning and turned on the CBS News as I was getting ready for the day. The motel television showed the bombing of the first tower and I thought that it was reviewing a new movie that was very graphic and I remember thinking, "That's not a movie I want to see." I then heard Bryant Gumble describe the plane attacking the second tower and interviewing a spectator saying that there were no signs of the plane being in trouble and it must have been deliberate.
My co-workers were in an adjoining room and I knocked on the door telling them to turn on the television which they were already watching. We watched the happenings for about 10 minutes before proceeding to our first session. My daughter was to be going on a business trip leaving out of Austin, Texas, that day and I was not able to reach her, but was relieved to hear from my son saying that she had not yet arrived at the airport for departure and was aware of the situation.
The first speaker for the conference that morning was from Washington, D.C., and she had immediate family living and working in Manhattan. She said that she felt that the topic of her presentation, teen pregnancy, was no longer important and asked the group if we wanted to do something else. There were tears and several moments of silence as we tried to absorb the magnitude of the problem. We went through the motions of the conference that was dispersed with updates of the situation along with the TVs setup in the motel lobby, etc.
I had to leave the conference that day to be back to Havre for work the next day when the rest of my co-workers remained, so I was driving back to Havre alone late that afternoon. About halfway back, the denial lifted and the tears flowed freely and I pulled over to the side of the road to make some phone calls and was disappointed to find that I was in a "dead space" for my cell phone. The only radio station I was able to get was a Canadian station and they were giving updates. The trip from Billings to Havre can be a lonely one and it was particularly lonely that day.
I suspect that we will remember what each of us were doing that day and I can now file it with the memories of what I was doing on the day John Kennedy was shot.