How Richmond reacted to the 9/11 attacks

The Palladium-Item on Sept. 11, 2001, published late enough in the day to include initial news of the terrorist attacks on its cover.

Huge headlines of “American disaster: Tragedy strikes this morning,” “TERRORISM: Explosions rock New York, D.C.” and “Trade Center towers collapse, Pentagon hit” filled the top of the front page, and a local story noted the local National Guard Armory was awaiting orders to go on higher alert.

An extra edition published later reported that local security measures were being implemented. A midday bomb threat that closed Interstate 70 between U.S. 27 and Ind. 1 for 90 minutes on Sept. 11 after a caller to Wayne County’s emergency dispatch declared that a tractor-trailer loaded with explosives had left the rest stop heading east, though police didn’t believe the report to be particularly credible.

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Hundreds of people gathered on the Earlham College campus for an afternoon peace vigil, and local churches held prayer meetings.

A Hagerstown family got a call from their son in New York right after the first plane crash to let them know he was alive and well — but then were left waiting another 90 agonizing minutes to learn whether that was still the case. Michael Woods called his parents, Max and Angie Woods, at 8:05 a.m. from the south tower of the World Trade Center, where his office was on the 41st floor, after the first plane had hit the other tower. As he described the carnage across from where he’d been in a meeting, he stopped and said, “Oh my God, not another one! I’ve got to hang up. I’ll call you back.”

Before his parents heard from him again, Michael Woods left the second tower, which had then been hit, gave away all his money to other people for cab fare so they could leave, and then walked eight blocks home, his father told the Pall-Item. He saw the first tower collapse as he crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Another man with local ties, Jerry Pipenger, who was in charge of inside security at the Pentagon, happened to be on the opposite side of the building when the plane crashed, his father, David Pipenger of Richmond told the Pall-Item; “I saw the pictures on TV. I saw where the plane hit, and I’m thinking, ‘That’s right by my son’s office.’ “

Students in designated grades were taking ISTEP+ that day when the attacks occurred; the state later gave schools permission to delay further testing if they deemed it necessary. 

Local schools canceled activities that evening, and the Community Blood Center set up in the Meijer parking lot until 6 p.m. to take blood donations because of “an overwhelming response” in Richmond. Within a day or two, would-be donors had to make appointments for the next week or further out to give blood.

Rumors of spiking gas prices prompted drivers to line up at local gas stations to fill their tanks that day, at prices up to $1.91 a gallon.

By Sept. 12, emergency personnel were trying to ease the public’s anxiety; even while acknowledging that local courthouses wouldn’t be prime targets, officials did step up police patrols “to make people feel safe and secure.”


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