Powerful memories

It was a morning like today's in Ashland — the beginning of fall in the air, students loading up their backpacks, people going to work — except for the news pouring out of radios, televisions and computers.

Planes smashed into the Twin Towers, the towers fell and thousands of people were trapped inside. Images of suits covered in soot, firefighters bent over wreckage and ambulances tucking bodies away peppered TV screens.

Although the news and images came from across the country, people in Ashland were also deeply affected that Sept. 11.

Seven years have passed since that morning, but the memory of it remains and this small town — 3,000 miles from New York City — remains changed.

Deputy Police Chief Rich Walsh remembers huddling around a small TV set with other officers at department headquarters on the morning of the attacks.

"We were basically stunned. It was one of those types of situations where you couldn't believe that this could have happened in America," he said Wednesday.

"We knew that the face of law enforcement and firefighting was going to change because of this, but we didn't know exactly how at that point," said Walsh, who has worked at the department for 27 years.

Officers have more extensive training as a result of 9/11 and they are more prepared to handle large-scale catastrophes, he said.

The Ashland Police Department held a moment of silence at 9:05 a.m. today to remember those that died in the attacks.

Ashland resident Rob Goldberg's memories of 9/11 are vivid because, instead of watching the news unfold on TV, he saw it through the window of the classroom where he was teaching in Brooklyn Heights.

"Brooklyn Heights looks out on lower Manhattan and I looked up and saw smoke billowing out. It was my second day of teaching. I walked in and it was a sort of frantic scene. Everybody was sitting around listening to a radio and looking out the windows," he said.

"Many of the students, fourth- and fifth-graders, had watched the planes hit because some of the classrooms faced the direction of the Twin Towers."

Goldberg, 29, moved to Ashland this summer from Philadelphia and is working on his dissertation for his PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania. He sees 9/11 through the lens of history.

"It was a terrible day and a sad day in this country's history, but there are sad days all the time in many counties. There are terrorist attacks in other countries everyday and the whole world doesn't just stop in those countries when that happens. Of course it's terrible when people die, but our tragedies aren't above those in other places."

Still, 9/11 should serve as a reminder of how Americans can unite in the face of disaster, Goldberg said.

"It was a moment when I feel like Americans came together. In New York City, people were just friendlier, and that was pretty cool to see."

Ashland Mayor John Morrison compared finding out about the attacks with finding out that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

Morrison was in Portland in the days after Kennedy's death in 1963 and nearly all businesses closed out of mourning, he said.

After the 2001 attacks, local businesses remained open, children continued to attend school and people went back to work. The Ashland Municipal Airport, however, was shut down for several days.

"I think there was so much confusion immediately after 9/11 and it was unclear for people what they should do. There was a terrible loss of life, but it was also terrible unfocused, because there were so many people killed," Morrison said.

"When Kennedy was killed, there was just this kind of loss that people had."

Both events permanently impacted Ashland and the rest of the country, he added.

"People say that we've never been the same since Kennedy was killed, since we lost our president, and certainly our world outlook is not the same now, after the 9/11 attacks."

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