By Callie Wariner
A cloud of pitch black smoke rose as ashes fell onto the people who scattered the cement floor below. The flames grew wild, roaring at the oxygen that surrounded it, eating the skyscraper that it possessed. Sirens wailed, joining the sounds of people screaming for their endangered lives.
The time is 8:46 a.m. A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center’s North building.
“I saw the smoke coming out of the building,” said Manvel High School accounting teacher Scott Sharp. “I was the only one in the break room at the time and people on the TV were speculating many things. Some people said it was a small plane and others believed that it was a jet. It was very confusing.”
Sharp, an Alvin native who was only 29 at the time of the September 11th attacks, worked for KPMG in Downtown Houston on the 29th floor of The Bank of America building located on 700 Louisiana Street. The temperature was around the mid-70s, not too cold and not too hot, he recalls. It was a perfect morning for Houstonians but, about 1600 miles away from the fourth largest city in the U.S., a total nightmare.
“I remember I left the break room to call my mom,” said Sharp. “She was asleep so she didn’t hear the news yet. She turned on her TV and told me that a second plane crashed into the other building. So I went back into the break room, there was around 15 people in there now and I remember just going, ‘Whoa!’ when the news replayed the video of the plane going into the other building. Shivers went up my spine … it was just so surreal.”
That second plane carried 65 lives, five of them were of al-Qaeda terrorists. The plane took off from Boston and was scheduled to land in L.A. Sadly, things did not go as planned. It is believed that between 8:42 and 8:46 a.m. hijackers Fayez Banihammad and Mohand al-Shehri forced their way into the cockpit and killed the pilots as Hamza al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Ghamdi moved passengers and crew to the back of the plane. About 20 minutes later, hijacker-pilot Marwan al-Shehhi crashed the plane into the South Tower, claiming all 65 lives.
“I left again to call a couple of family members and when I came back, I could barely get in,” Sharp recounted. “Everyone from the floor was there watching. I noticed a lot of smoke so I asked what had happened and then someone said that the South Tower collapsed. It was hard to take in, hard to believe.”
The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 A.M, followed by the North Tower collapsing about half an hour later, claiming hundreds more lives and leaving families devastated.
“Someone then announced something on the intercom. I remember the person said something around, ‘Hey, you guys, with what is going on in New York, we decided that we are not going to work today. Take this time to be with your families, please be safe.’ So I get home to my two daughters, Brianna and Bailey, and spent the rest of the day and following days with them and watching the news.”
Families across the Houston area and around the world were also going home to their families, worried that the whole nation was under attack.
“There was a lot of stuff going on at the time,” Sharp said. “There were reports of a plane missing that eventually crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania then there was the one that crashed into the Pentagon and all of this is happening simultaneously. No one knew what the heck was going on.”
The plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was United Airlines Flight 93 and it claimed 44 lives, 4 of them being terrorists. American Airlines Flight 77 was the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon, killing the 64 people (including 5 terrorists) on board and 125 people from the government building.
The attacks claimed nearly 3,000 lives and caused $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage. Today marks the 14th year anniversary and there is still talk and debate about the political events that have unfolded since the attack such as The Patriot Act and a rise in hate crimes targeting the Muslim community. Tension still drowns the atmosphere in airports, especially when people of Middle Eastern descent are around. It’s obviously not their fault, but sadly anti-Muslim propaganda is still being fed to American minds after so many years.