Day of Infamy for a Seventh Grader

by Chuck Stanley

All of us have a Day of Infamy. For younger people, it is probably 9-11-2001. For older people, perhaps the assassinations of Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy, or President Kennedy.

In my case, it is Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original, “Day that shall live in infamy.”

I huddled with my dad and some of his co-workers around a big radio cabinet, listening to the breathless words of radio news announcers as they told of Pearl Harbor.

Those are days that live with us the rest of our days.

September 11, 2001 was a traumatic day for most Americans. It was definitely traumatic for our family. My sister was scheduled to have elective surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City on September 12. Because my wife, Letha, was a registered nurse, the plan was for her to go to New York in order to assist Sis with her recovery and trip home.

At the time, my sister lived lived in a suburb of St. Louis, and Letha went up to St. Louis a few days early.

Like most of our family members, my sister is very active. The family joke is that she is a hyperactive adult. She made plans to fly to New York a day early. They had reservations at a hotel near Mt. Sinai Hospital. Neither of them had ever been to New York, and both had a bucket list of things they wanted to see and do.

Top of the list was for them to get up early on the morning of September 11 and see some of the famous sights of downtown Manhattan. They only had one day for sightseeing before surgery scheduled for the next day.  One of the first things they wanted to do was take the rooftop tour of the World Trade Center, then have breakfast at one of the restaurants in the building.

Brandi, our Celtic Lassie, was in school. Shortly after nine o’clock, an announcement came on the intercom at Brandi’s school for the teachers to turn the classroom television sets to the news.  The TV picture in Brandi’s class came on, and just a moment later, on live television, the second plane crashed into the second tower.  Brandi turned to the student behind her, saying, “I hope that was not my mom’s plane.”

I was at work with the news off, so I did not hear about the incident until a client advised me on the phone that it had happened.  I closed the office, rushing home to find out what was going on.

Making matters worse, I knew that the flight from St. Louis to New York was on Boeing 757 aircraft.  I was stunned to learn that the aircraft used in all four hijackings that morning were B-757’s.

I could not get through to Mt. Sinai Hospital to see if they had checked in.  When I tried to call Letha’s cell phone, I got a recording that all circuits were busy.  No one answered at my sister’s house in St. Louis.

Without knowing whether they were alive or dead, I called the school, having decided that it would be better for Brandi to stay at school rather than be at home worrying.  I told the school secretary to tell Brandi the white lie that her mom was not on any of the planes that crashed, and she and her aunt were fine.

I am not into telling lies, so it was all that harder for me to tell the school this story. As far as I knew, Letha and my sister were on the observation platform on the roof of one of the towers.

I kept trying to get Letha by cell phone.  It was not until five-thirty or six that afternoon that Letha called. She said that they had decided to take a later flight to New York.  They arrived at the St. Louis airport just in time to learn of the hijackings.  All flights were cancelled as they waited to check in. By that time, all the phone lines were jammed.

Brandi brooded about the incident for a long time, but we encouraged her to talk about her feelings.  She wrote a diary entry in the journal she kept for her Language Arts class.  While checking her homework, we found it, discovering a passionate essay about her fears, mixed with hope for the future.

I asked Brandi if I could show it to someone at the newspaper.  She said I could, so I showed it to the reporter that covers the school beat.  He was excited about the notes, and wanted to write a story about Brandi as a feature article.  I felt that she might be embarrassed, but would allow the essay to be a letter to the editor.  Her letter appeared in the paper a few days later.  This is the letter she wrote to the Elizabethton Star, just as it appeared on October 15, 2001:

Seventh Grader: America is ready to defend freedom.
America stands for freedom.  On September 11, 2001, evil people tried to take away our freedom.  Terrorists flew our airplanes into the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.  They thought they could shut down our country.  They also killed and injured thousands of people.    This will not stop the United States of America!  We will find the people who did this terrible thing and we will make them pay.  We will fly again, work again and play again.  It will take them years to clean up the mess that was made, but we will.

My Aunt will go to New York to have her special surgery, and to do that she has to fly.  She told my mom that even if she is a little afraid to fly she wouldn’t let anyone stop her from having good health.  She should have the freedom to go anywhere she needs to go to get help.

My brother is a doctor.  He is also in the Coast Guard Reserves.  President Bush has called up some Coast Guard Reserves but my brother has not been called.  If he is called to care for wounded soldiers, I would be proud of him for going, but afraid that something would happen to him.

What these terrorists did was wrong.  People will never forget this day in history.  It’s not over yet and may not be for many years.  All we can do is hope and pray that this will not happen again.  If it does, we will be ready.
Brandi Stanley
7th Grade
T. A. Duggar Jr. High School

After September 11, Brandi had recurring nightmares that her mom or I might die.  She also had nightmares about trees falling into the house.  One recurring nightmare was a giant UPS truck crashing into her school building, knocking it down and killing everyone inside. That dream persisted on into when she was in college.

One does not have to be a psychologist or psychoanalyst to understand that dream symbolism.

Brandi saw a porcelain replica of the WTC advertised in a magazine. She wanted to order one as a collectible. It was among her most precious of treasures.

I took a picture of it today, on the eleventh anniversary of that terrible day.

Brandi's porcelain sculpture of the WTC

Brandi’s porcelain sculpture of the WTC

What are your recollections?

About Chuck Stanley

Dr. Charlton (Chuck) Stanley is a board certified forensic psychologist, with interests in aviation psychology, peace officer selection and training, ethics and communication skills.
This entry was posted in 9-11, American History, Terrorism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Day of Infamy for a Seventh Grader

  1. rafflaw says:

    Great article. I was watching TV that morning with my daughter and we saw the planes hit the towers. I knew then that we were at war with someone or some entity. Just like the Kennedy killing it was a day I will never forget!

  2. Aridog says:

    Chuck Stanley & Rafflaw … I recall that day like it was yesterday. I saw the 2nd plane hit via CNN in our office on the federal news feed. It was shocking to my subordinates, all of whom showed inordinate fear by 10:30 AM…enough for me to send them home from the federal building…which coincidently was at the foot of a large avenue and directly in a straight line pathway from Detroit Metro Airport. We’d made jokes about it in the past…on 11 September 2001 it was no longer a joke. Fear swept through the building and I saw more ninja clad Secret Service and FBI personnel, all with machine guns, than I imagined possible come out of the offices in our building. I left at 1:00 PM when the Secret Service ordered the building closed and all “Chiefs” to go home. I did…and was met by a sobbing Lebanese Muslim woman and her husband at my yard fence crying “what we fled has followed us here”…e.g., there was no where else to go. How much more desperation can there be than that?

    They both knew I was US Army and felt I needed their emotions more than they did….I saw them a year or so ago and they asked if I remembered them…of course I did, how could I forget them? I also recall exactly where I was at roughly 1:30 PM 22 Nov 1963 when JFK’s assassination was announced…in my car at the corner of Kirby Street & Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

    We’ve endured tragedy…I only hope we’ve learned something from them. I don’t hold out much hope that we have…sad to say.

  3. shortfinals says:

    Thank you very much for this, Chuck. It must have brought back so many memories of Brandi. I chose to be American, to come to New England, and make a new life. I had been in the UK at the time of the London terrorist bombings, and the siege of the Libyan Embassy. I always regarded the USA as a safe haven.

    All that changed on 9/11. Jan called out to me from our living room that a ‘light aircraft’ had crashed into one of the Twin Towers (she is from Fairfield County, CT and had worked in New York). I arrived in the room just as the second airliner hit. That day developed a surreal quality, nothing made sense anymore; my adopted country had been violated, and nothing would ever be the same again.

    I pray for the victims of violence, whoever and wherever they may be. May you all know peace.

  4. Aridog says:

    I also recall that after we all had sent our subordinates home from our office in the federal building, that our commander ordered all chiefs to locate, if possible, anyone who was traveling and especially if they were at WTC-7 where we had offices, or the Pentagon. I had one at the Pentagon. It took me until early evening to reach her, with a call from her when she found a working phone, by that time I was at home, and she was at Union Station in DC with a ticket for a train to Chicago, the only one she could acquire at that time there…she had not been in the part of the Pentagon hit. She said her only goal after the incident was to get out of town by any means necessary…and knew that she had to report in to me as a courtesy. From Chicago she had to buy a ticket to Detroit…the entire trip took over 24 hours, but she arrived home in the evening the next day. I was able to report her safe on the evening of 9/11 and home the evening of 9/12. Coincidently she is the individual I resigned to protect from a RIF and is now in my old position.

  5. bron98 says:

    Your daughter had quite a bit of insight for seventh grade.

  6. Aridog says:

    Brandi had prescience beyond her years, which is the prerogative of intelligent and sensitive youth. I am sorry she’s gone but she will never be forgotten. We need more like her, not less. I hope we can find them. The Celtic Lassie was more than just a kid, she was the spirit in all of us, I’d hope.

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