One farmer was working as a teacher when the planes hit in New York
By Diego Flammini
Sept. 11, 2020 marks the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Between 8:46 a.m. and 10:28 a.m. eastern standard time on that day in 2001, 19 men highjacked and crashed four commercial planes.
American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center towers.
American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Va., near Washington D.C. And United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Penn., after passengers tried to stop the hijackers.
A total of 2,977 people died in the attacks.
American farmers remember where they were when news of the attacks started to spread.
John Kriese, a beef producer from Branchport, N.Y., about 300 miles away from the memorial where the towers once stood, was teaching an agriculture class at a local high school.
Some of his students told him what had happened. But he didn’t believe them at first because they had reputations for being pranksters.
“I had some students who if they told you their name, you weren’t sure to believe them,” he told Farms.com. “But they were adamant that I turn on the TV and, sure enough, there was one of the towers. We stood there and watched and saw the second plane hit.”
The following day, Kriese and his family drove to Richmond, Ind., for a bull sale.
The almost eight-hour drive is still one he remembers to this day.
“It was so eerie,” he said. “There was almost nobody on the road and no matter what radio station you put on, everybody was playing very patriotic music. We pulled into the bull sale and people couldn’t believe that we made the drive.”
Even during the sale event, the September 11 attacks dominated conversation, he said.
Kriese also recalls how quiet it was in his community following the incident.
His farm is about an hour away from the Greater Rochester International Airport.
Hearing or seeing planes fly over the farm was nothing new, but with airports shut down, the silence became deafening, he said.
“There was no air traffic whatsoever and that’s just an oddity from where I live,” he said. “It was nothing to see one or two planes every hour preparing to land, so for that to just stop immediately was a very strange feeling.”
The dialogue with his students changed too.
Following the attacks, Kriese essentially stopped teaching and focused on trying to help his students understand what happened, why and who was responsible.
The discussions were challenging, he said.
“We were glued to the TV and everyone was generally scared,” he said. “We live in a very rural part of New York with very little cultural diversity. These kids had no idea who or what al-Qaeda was, and it was their first time learning that some people wanted to do us harm.”
Another producer found himself in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11.
Eric Ooms, a dairy farmer from Kinderhook, N.Y. and vice-president of the New York Farm Bureau, was working for Bob Gray, a senior dairy policy adviser with the Northeast Dairy Farmers Cooperatives.
At the time, Gray, Ooms and others were working on policies about regional dairy pricing.
The team was in the middle of a morning meeting on Sept. 11 when news of the terrorist attacks started to spread.
“Someone on the conference call said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center,” Ooms told Farms.com. “Even when we heard there was a second plane, we still didn’t think it was that serious. But when we walked out from between the Longworth and the Rayburn buildings, we could see the black smoke from the Pentagon.”
Now a father of four, Ooms sees the lingering effects of Sept. 11 in a different light.
Some parts of everyday life are normal to his children, but he remembers when things were different.
“My oldest is 12 and my kids have flown maybe a handful of times,” he said. “When they go to the airport, taking off their shoes and going through that process is normal to them. I can obviously remember not having to do some of those things. So, when I see that, it acts as a reminder about how much the world has changed.”