By Tim Leeds
Kari McLaughlin watched in disbelief as the World Trade Center collapsed.
"I felt like we were in the Bermuda Triangle," she said.
Several people with ties to Havre witnessed the tragedies that unfolded Tuesday when terrorists rammed two hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York City and another one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
McLaughlin, daughter of Havre City Judge Joyce Perszyk and her husband, Joe Perszyk, saw the tragedy at the World Trade Center from her office building in New York.
McLaughlin works for L'Oral as a paralegal. She said people in her office noticed that the Trade Center was burning, turned on the television and learned that it had been hit by planes. They watched the first tower collapse shortly after they'd learned what had happened.
There was disbelief when the second tower fell, she added. People around her said, "There's nothing there. Where did it go? Oh, my god, it's gone."
McLaughlin said an evacuee from the Trade Center came to their office just before the second tower collapsed. She said he had lived through the previous terrorist bombing of the Trade Center in 1993.
"We had the one miracle man," she said, "and we just kept touching him."
Havre residents Tony and Jackie Lovenguth have a nephew, Eric, who works four blocks from the World Trade Center. Eric, 31, had just gotten off the subway, which was delayed for 20 minutes when the first plane crashed into the Center, and had a view of the aftermath from the 17th floor of the building where he works.
"The whole area started rumbling," said Eric, who said his company prohibited him from giving out his last name. "You could see the gaping hole in the World Trade Center, flames were coming out. I saw the smoke cloud come rushing toward me."
After both crashes, enormous clouds of charcoal-colored smoke blanketed Manhattan.
"It was like we were in a tomb," Eric said. Thick black smoke "covered the entire downtown."
Four hours passed before Eric and his fellow employees were permitted to leave their building, as police were attempting to file people out of nearby buildings in an orderly manner.
"There were only certain places you could walk," Eric said.
K'Lynn Sloan, daughter of Duaine and Karen Sloan of Havre, works as a staff assistant for Montana Sen. Max Baucus in Washington. Sloan said she was sick and was late for work when the airliner crashed into the Pentagon. She added that the wall of her apartment in Arlington shook but she didn't think too much about it at the time.
She was about to head out the door at 9:45 a.m. EST when her roommate's mother called from California to ask if her daughter was all right, and told her what had happened.
Sloan said the only thing that got her through the day Tuesday was being on the phone with her parents and friends.
"Whenever I heard something my blood would run cold and my hair would stand on end," she said. She added that she kept thinking, "my apartment building is going, I don't feel safe. I just wanted to be in Glacier Park" with no one else around.
Sloan said after she heard what had happened at the Pentagon she turned on the TV and the first picture she saw was the World Trade Center in flames.
"I just thought, What the hell is going on, how could this happen in the same day?'" she said.
She said she received a call from a friend of her roommate, a friend who lives in New York. "She said, you just can't imagine, it's the end of the world here," Sloan said.
Sloan's friend, Jessica Liese, daughter of Allan and Sue Ost of Havre, works in New York at the Carnegie Center in Manhattan. Sloan said she couldn't reach Liese by phone at first, but they did e-mail each other.
Liese went through on the last subway car to Manhattan before the transit system was shut down, Sloan said. She added that the passengers have a view of the New York City skyline on the trip, and Liese said that when they saw what had happened to the Trade Center, everyone in the car gasped.
Daryl Buck Wright, chief of staff for National Tribal Development at Rocky Boy, was in Washington, D.C., with John "Roddy" Sunchild at a meeting in a Senate building when the Pentagon was hit.
Wright and Sunchild were in Washington to try to begin a funding process for Native Americans to access loans through the Farm Service Agency for farm and ranch operations.
Wright said it is not business as usual today. "We are sitting in a deserted town, and in Washington, D.C., it is usually a very busy area but not today."
After the attack on the Pentagon, they had to walk and couldn't immediately get a cab. "We were at the USDA buildings when they began to evacuate yesterday and we stood for hours trying to leave and then when we caught a cab we rode for a hour and a half just to go three blocks."
Wright added that "at 2 p.m. yesterday it was a ghost town already. Diplomats were getting special escorts after it happened, and we were constantly hearing sirens."
"I am going to be thankful just to make it home. I am happy to be Indian and to be in a place that I love," Wright said.
Sunchild said they are stranded in Washington. There is "no Amtrak, no bus, no airport, no car rental, no limo, no way out, and my wife told me to hitchhike home," he added.
Peter Lener, formerly of Havre, volunteered to help prepare the Jacobi Hospital trauma center in New York to take care of victims of the tragedy Tuesday. Lener, who worked as a physician's assistant at the Rocky Boy Health Service and whose wife, Roberta, was the Hill County health nurse, now lives in the Bronx.
Lener said people are going about their daily life in the Bronx now, and children are on the streets listening to music and playing basketball. He added that people are expressing their concerns but there is no high level of anxiety in the Bronx.
Lener traveled to Manhattan today to volunteer help in preparing trauma centers, and said his wife plans to volunteer as a grief counselor.
McLaughlin said she normally takes a bus home to Queens from work, but since the transit system was shut down, she had to walk three miles to a friend's house, then get a car service to take her home. She added that as she and other walkers got off the 59th Street bridge, people were handing out water, cans of Slimfast and protein drinks.
"People were being so nice, polite, helpful," she said. "After the horror everyone thinks New York is, it wasn't like that at all."
Daily News reporters Tim Eberly and Glenda Eagleman Wells contributed to this story.