County residents share memories of 9/11

Posted 9/15/20

None of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 occurred in our area or even in our state, but as Americans it dealt us all a strong shock. Last week I asked some folks got their memories of that time. None hesitated, all remembered. It appears that many couldn’t bear to be alone with the news, and they felt compelled to contact someone else, someone to help bear the burden. I’m not explaining when for any of the below except the last. The others all occurred that fateful day.

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County residents share memories of 9/11


None of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 occurred in our area or even in our state, but as Americans it dealt us all a strong shock. Last week I asked some folks got their memories of that time. None hesitated, all remembered. It appears that many couldn’t bear to be alone with the news, and they felt compelled to contact someone else, someone to help bear the burden. I’m not explaining when for any of the below except the last. The others all occurred that fateful day.

Madisonville City Council member Chris McGilbra recalled, “I was at the Ferguson Unit working outside with trustys when a coworker heard about the planes hitting the towers and informed me. Prison authorities put the unit on a form of lockdown. Officers and inmates alike were in shock and daze. The rest of the workday, a group of officers and I sat at the trusty camp and watched everything unfold on national television. All of us felt numb and unbelieving. It was a very scary day. Fear of the unknown or what will happen next can be a powerful thing, and it especially was that day.”

Wyona Donaho Ballard said, “I had been scheduled to be New York City to meet my new boss at the Philip Morris USA headquarters there. Instead, he came to Texas and I picked him up at his hotel. As we were driving to Temple to meet a customer, we were on a conference call with the director of the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. Suddenly she told us what had happened in New York. We ended the call and turned on the radio for more facts. As we pulled into McLane Company in Temple, Mama called, in tears, thinking I was in New York. I had neglected her to tell her when my plans had changed, so she was beyond relieved to learn that I was in Texas. We went into McLane’s where employees were gathered in the break room, watching events unfold on television.”

Rhonda Kizzee, now retired from Madisonville Junior High, was teaching seventh grade English. She explained, “Back then, all classes began every morning with news on Channel 1, but uniquely that day it switched over to show network news and the towers. The rest of the school day was quiet and grim; it seemed like the students actually understood how much our nation had to mourn. Usually passing in the halls was a rambunctious time, but not that day. It was solemn.”

United States Marine Corps Colonel Allan Jaster shared, “I was on the rifle range on Camp Pendleton California when one of my Marines mentioned that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I remember thinking “What a terrible accident.” A bit later a different Marine said another plane had flown into the second tower. I had a serious case of cognitive dissonance. I remember questioning him several times ‘Are you sure?... Are you sure?” I remember the President gave a brief speech. Even though it was a radio message, it calmed me.”

Paul Schroeder said “I was at work at the high school and had just walked into Cindy Bailey’s office. She said, ‘A plane just crashed into one of the twin towers in New York City.’ I took that to mean a private plane, and I went back to my class, wondering ‘Did someone have a heart attack while flying over the city?’ I didn’t find out until later that there were two planes involved and it was an attack.”

Sharon Nixon confided “I was living in an apartment in Azle. My best friend’s mother called and said, ‘We’re under attack!’ I turned on television and first thought it was a creepy movie, but then saw it was real. Later as I went about my day, I noticed everyone was pulling together. It seemed like everyone was SO kind to each other that day, and they showed genuine concern for each other!”

Ann Poe stated, “I had dropped off Kyle, my oldest son, off at Mrs. Smith’s Pre-K and had driven back home with baby Zach. I put him on the floor, turned on the TV, and the New York news was on every channel. I struggled with the idea that maybe I should go back and pick Kyle up right away. I did wait until lunch. When I got there, I found that Mrs. Smith had no idea what had happened. Busy teaching her students, she had seen no television and heard no radio.”

Wayne Turner recalled, “I was mowing for Mrs. Marjorie Crouch on North Woodrow Street. She called me into the house to see what was on television. I watched with her a few minutes and then finished her yard before going home and then to school to work.

”Tammy Driskell said, “I was sitting right here in this desk (at Stover and Crouch Insurance) when James Olin Manning came in, saying ‘I just heard on the radio that a plane hit one of those towers in New York City.’ I had one of those tiny TV sets on the self behind my desk and I turned it on. Craig (Stover) and James Olin and I were watching it when the second plane hit.”

Lindy Thomas, Assistant Librarian at Madison County Library, recalled being a junior at Oakridge High School in The Woodlands. “When I arrived at school, people were crying and hugging. One girl was quite distraught. I asked others why and got some of the facts. Then when we got to class, we watched a bit of current news like most days, but suddenly instead we saw the two towers and smoke and all. We all sat watching in silence. Later we learned that the one girl had been so upset because her father worked in one of the towers, and later still we found out that he had died there. She never came back to our school after that day.”

Randy Lowery said, “I was here, like I always am, at Vick’s. I remember that the Vicks’ daughter Corrie, was living in New York and called to let folks know she and her husband were fine.”

Noella Smith stated. “I was at home, taking care of our Kayley who was two and also of Annie Chrane. I was also making shirts and watching television, so I saw the bad news. I called Mom, partly because my brother was a pilot based out of Boston. I was thrilled to learn he wasn’t flying that day.”

Misty Mosemann stated, “I had just gotten out of school in Huntsville and was in Walmart Supercenter when I heard the news on a radio. I went to see my mom at the bank before I came home.”

D.C. Nealey remembered, “I was on my way to Houston to pick up a load of fertilizer, of course for Standleys. It wasn’t long until freeway traffic really thinned out, I guess with many folks pulling off to watch on a television.”

Steven Stover said, “A friend and I had gotten back from Las Vegas the night before, and we were at this house on Lake Conroe. That morning I was doing some work there and turned on the television. Clips showed the first plane crashing, and I thought ‘What’s going on?’ I yelled at the friend to come, and we saw the second plane hit.”

Karen Lane, our Tax Assessor/Collector, confided, “We were living in Bryan. I was feeding year-old Shelby and getting ready for the third birthday the next day of our son, Justin. My husband, Craig, traveled a lot on business back then. He called from Atlanta to share the New York news. Since airports shut down for a while, it took a longer time than usual for him to get home.”

Mayra Rodriguez recalled, “I was 13 and at Madisonville Junior High with Mrs. O’Neal. We walked down the hallway to the computer lab, where Mrs. Crump informed us of the morning’s awful events. We went back to class and spent most of the day watching the news.”

Janet Boone, our local Election Administrator, said, “I was working at the Water Office in North Zulch and had no outside communication except a telephone. Ronnie Brown, who was operator at the time, came barreling up and threw open the front door, saying, ‘You’ve got to turn on a radio or something! You won’t believe what just happened!’ I had to go turn on my car radio to get the news.”

Caralynda Theiss remembered, “I was at the Intermediate School working at the front desk as attendance clerk. My mother called and relayed the awful news. Then concerned parents started calling.”

Frieda Michaels said, “I was at work in Huntsville at a doctor’s office. It was early and I was alone. First, I heard some of the New York news on a radio and then I went into the waiting room to watch it on television. It all left me feeling numb, completely shocked.”

Many simply saw it while watching the morning news on television at home. Connie Kelly was one, and immediately called her parents who were also watching. Willie McAdams and Leslie were getting ready to go out of town. The awful news made them decide to stay home, for fear of what would happen next. Someone called Shawna Wilson and told her to turn on TV, which she did, and she watched it all. John Hardy and wife Toni caught it in time to watch the second plane hit, and he watched a while before going to work. Bill Cannon was asleep because he was then working at TDC. Sherry called and woke him with the bad news. After City Council Member Lois Brown saw the awful events, she called her nephew, Gerald Davis, in Houston.

Dorothy Willis, of Larry’s Barbecue, remembers being off work and seeing it all unfold on TV. She prayed, called friends, and cried.

Dr. Timothy Sandles was still plain Timothy, a freshman at Texas A&M University, and living in a dorm room. Recently he said of 9/11, “My fondest memory of that time is of being moved out of that Dunn dorm room in the middle of the night a few days later, because my roommate was under investigation for being a terrorist. I recall sitting in that dorm hallway, crying and begging the investigator not to get me killed and to just ‘leave that boy alone’. Those authorities made me promise not to tell anyone. Instead, I dramatically called all my friends and family. The next day, my grandparents, Johnnie Mae and J.W. Sandles, took me to get my first cell phone and treated me to Red Lobster. I have no idea what became of poor Salem, the roommate.” (Timothy survived and I’ll bet he was strengthened by that experience. He received a B.S. from Texas A&M University in 2005, later a M.S. from Texas A&M Kingsville, and finally a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation from Louisiana State University. Dr. Sandles currently works as Instructional Designer & Trainer at Lone Star College in Conroe.)

What about you? Where were you that day, and how did you feel? Who told you and who did you tell? If you want to add your 9/11 memories so we can have them in the Museum, please mail them to Madison County Museum, P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864.

The Museum is still closed due to Covid-19 but we are hoping that changes soon. If you consider visiting, you’ll want to call ahead, 936.348.5230.