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Local and State Officials Share Their Memories of Sept. 11, 2001


Location: Washington, DC

Gov. Dennis Daugaard issued an executive proclamation designating Sept. 11 as Patriot Day.

"Ten years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists ruthlessly attacked the United States, causing the tragic deaths of thousands of innocent United States' citizens and citizens from more than 90 other nations," said Daugaard. "In response to the attacks, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, physicians, nurses, military personnel and other first-responders immediately -- without concern for their own well-being -- rose to service in many heroic efforts to protect the lives of those still at risk, consequently saving thousands of men and women."

Daugaard said it is a fitting tribute to observe this Sunday, Sept. 11, as Patriot Day in remembrance of those who were lost and those who continue to serve.

"These first-responders, soldiers and their families are worthy of eternal gratitude we can express through prayer and kind actions and voluntary services for others," he said.

* Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.:

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., had distinct memories of the day he learned of the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks.

"As I drove to work that morning, I heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the (World Trade Center)," he said. "I thought that was strange but assumed it was some sort of accident. When I got to the office, staff told me that a second plane had crashed into the WTC complex and that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon."

Johnson said that was when he knew the country was under attack by terrorists.

"It was reported that a fourth plane was missing but the assumption was it was flying either to the U.S. Capitol or the White House," said Johnson.

Johnson was scheduled to attend a Banking Committee hearing and other senators and Johnson had agreed that the terrorists were not going to stop the business of the government. Almost immediately after starting the hearing, the Capitol Police entered the hearing room and demanded the senators leave the capitol as soon as possible.

"As I drove home, I could see the smoke and fire billowing out of the Pentagon," he said. "It was a very sad day in all our lives and in the history of our country. My heart and prayers go out to all the families of those who lost their lives in Pentagon, in Pennsylvania and the World Trade Center."

Johnson said on the 10th anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11, it continues to be a shared experience that bonds Americans together and shows to the world the strength and resilience of the country's democracy.

* Rep. Kristi Noem, R- S.D.:

"As we prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda terror attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, we are once again reminded of the tragic events from that day and the nearly 3,000 Americans who lost their lives," said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.). "We are also reminded of the estimated 3,050 children who lost a parent, the 1,600 people who lost a husband or wife and the tens of thousands of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. The events of that day changed our way of life forever."

Noem said as Americans reflect on the 10th anniversary of that horrible day, they should also remember the military members who have served and continue to serve -- particularly those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure a day like 9/11 never happens again.

"These men and women -- along with the members of their families who also sacrifice greatly in their loved one's absence -- continue to embody the courage and resolve that was shown by so many in our nation on Sept. 11 and in the days and months that followed," she said.

* Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.:

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. said he believes almost everyone can remember where they were and who they were with during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"We think about the horrific images we saw on TV screens and how we hurried to get in touch with loved ones. We struggled with how to answer the questions of our children as we dealt with our own fears while trying to understand how the United States could be attacked in this way," said Thune.

Thune said he prayed for those families that had members who were missing and taken from them that day.

"It is a day that clearly changed America forever," he said.

"We've seen increased security, restricted access to some public buildings, an abundance of metal detectors.

"Sunday is a day for us to remember that freedom isn't free and that we all have to remain vigilant to make sure that this sort of attack never is successful again."

He said on Sunday, South Dakotans will and should remember those who lost their lives in the War Against Terror and those who lost their lives on Sept. 11.

* Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill:

Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill could only describe her memories of Sept. 11, 2001, as "shocking."

"I was working for both the state government and working on the commission at the time," she said. "In terms of city government, I was airport commissioner at the time and I remember shortly after the incident occurred, Gov. Janklow called me into his office and told me we would see the presence of National Guard in Pierre and we were to begin to make plans to put up concrete barriers at the airport.

"We wanted to keep small rural airports safe because there was the fear someone could get on and go into main (airline) system without more security checks (at larger airports)."

Other changes that came after the attack included putting up a fence barrier around the airport. Gill said they also provided police officers at the airport, putting an additional burden on local law enforcement.

"There was lots of discussion about protecting utilities as well," she said. "People were fearful that (terrorists) would try to get into water supplies. This moved us into a new era.

"In any major event like this, the main thing is we don't forget or let down our guard. It was a wakeup call that things can happen on our soil. We don't want to forget those that lost their lives and don't want to become complacent and we want our young people to remember and know what happened."

* Fort Pierre Mayor Sam Tidball:

As Fort Pierre Mayor Sam Tidball sat at the Chuck Wagon Café on Sept. 11, 2001, having breakfast, footage of the first World Trade Center tower being hit came across a TV in the restaurant.

"At first we thought -- as most people did -- that it was an accident but then they showed another tower being struck," said Tidball. "It was then that everyone realized the horror of it and that it was indeed an attack."

Tidball called the attack a "wakeup call" to how much damage could be caused from this kind of attack.

Tidball also remembered the National Guard soldiers that were stationed not only at the Pierre Regional Airport but also at the Oahe Dam. There was a fear by some that there could be an attack by terrorists to damage the dam.

"It was unbelievable that something like this could happen in America," he said.

"I know it changed the outlook of everyone and served as a wakeup call to be more cautious and more prepared in the future."

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