9/11: We Remember

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Anyone old enough to remember the horrifying events of Sept. 11, 2001 will never forget the sense of shock and sorrow as the tragedy unfolded.

Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, which caused most Americans to realize for the first time just how vulnerable we are.

The Legal News asked a handful of people in the legal community to share their impressions of that dark day a decade ago.

Janet Welch

Executive Director

State Bar of Michigan

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1. Where were you on September 11 when you realized we had been attacked by terrorists?

I heard the news that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers the way many people did -- from a coworker who had been listening to the radio -- and my reaction was a common one: what a bizarre and tragic accident. Of course the news that followed changed everything. The energy of the State Bar office, which had been in high gear for the Annual Meeting events beginning that evening, quickly transformed into a quiet tension. We spent the rest of the day dealing with the news on two levels -- on the working on the practical problem of what to do about the Annual Meeting events scheduled for the next three days, while also struggling to take in the more far-reaching implications of what had just happened.

2. What will you always remember about that day?

I have a vivid memory of going to the open house at the local high school that evening -- our daughter was a freshman that year but we had been to the open house several times before when our son was in high school. Everything seemed familiar -- the booster club, the volunteer sign-up sheets, the posters on the wall, the pleasure of greeting friends after a summer apart -- but it all felt different, too, almost like sleepwalking. We talked about classes and teachers and j.v. soccer and supplies, but all anybody really wanted to talk about was the attacks, to figure out what they meant and how the day's events would change the world our kids would grow up in.

3. How -- if at all -- has your life changed?

9/11 changed forever the way I think and feel about lawyers and our legal system. Before 9/11 I could recite, approvingly, the famous stories of lawyers taking principled stands in times of national trauma -- from John Adams defending the Boston Massacre soldiers to Korematsu's lawyers challenging the detention of Japanese-American citizens. But the post-9/11 issues concerning indefinite detention, surveillance, and torture occurred on my watch as a lawyer and I watched them unfold in real time. Suddenly constitutional principles felt real and more personal. I saw lawyers whose intelligence and integrity I admire greatly equivocate on fundamental principles, and it made me admire and value even more the lawyers who did not.

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Susan Gillooly

Assistant U.S. Attorney

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1. Where were you on September 11 when you realized we had been attacked by terrorists?

Sitting at my desk on September 11, 2001, in the course of a regular business day, never would I have thought that I would receive a telephone call, which would alert me to an event that would ultimately change all of our lives. After answering the phone with my usual greeting, I was asked frantically if I was anywhere near a federal building in Detroit, as we were " under attack." As the caller explained the situation I listened, although thoughts of how to get to my children raced through my mind. I tuned into CNN and watched the coverage for a few short moments before heading toward the school. Alongside many other concerned parents, I scooped up my children and headed home. I tried to explain what was happening. The shock of the situation and the uncertainly of the unfolding events made it very difficult to explain, in terms that they would understand, and that would provide them with any assurances of safety.

2. What will you always remember about that day?

My sons and I went to the neighborhood park. I will always remember the eerie silence of that day. The commercial passenger planes which usually flew overhead had stopped, the wireless phones silenced, and it appeared that the neighborhood was deserted. After a short time we saw large military cargo type planes fly overhead, from nearby Selfridge air base. The noise from the planes rattled windows. It was troubling to see the military planes, which usually only fly over for special events. The fear struck that a war might be imminent. In the hours that followed we watched the media coverage, felt sadness for the families of the victims, and feared the response which would be triggered.

3. How -- if at all -- has your life changed?

The events of September 11 changed my life in many ways. It brought to realization the fact that we are all vulnerable, as people, and a nation; subject to attack by those who do not share our beliefs, customs or philosophies. It made me realize that life is not certain, that events happen which change our outlook on life, our priorities, our beliefs, our suspicions, our tolerances, our allegiances, our relationships and the importance of people and things.

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Chief Judge

Gerald Rosen

U.S. District Court,

Eastern District

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What will you always remember about that day?

My memories of September 11 are of terror, uncertainty, courage and determination: Terror on the faces of those who were in the World Trade Center and in the voices of those calling their loved ones from the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania; uncertainty of all of us about the scope of the attacks and whether our own courthouse might be a target; courage of those first responders at the WTC, as they ran towards the towers while thousands streamed past them away from the towers; and the determination of all of us to never allow such a devastating attack again.

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Judith

Cunningham

Oakland County

Corporation Counsel

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1. Where were you on September 11 when you realized we had been attacked by terrorists?

1. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had attended a meeting at the Oakland County Bar Association of the ADR Committee. I was driving back to the courthouse from the meeting and wanted some coffee, so as I went through the drive-through lane at McDonald's, I had the radio on and the news was reporting that an airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York. At first, it sounded like a terrible, tragic accident.

By the time I got up to my office, it was clear that something else was going on and the rumors were flying. A lot of the courthouse gang was gathering into what is now the Lawyers Conference Room on the first floor of the West Wing Extension. At that time, it was a like a break room for staff, but there was a television in the room so that's where we went to follow the events. I remember we were all watching the news and horrified when we saw the second plane crash into the other Tower. We were all stunned and speechless and thought we were all under attack. By the time we heard about the Pentagon, it was pretty scary stuff.

Almost immediately, the county activated our Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and everyone who plays a part in emergency functions was called over to the center for the duration of the day. So that's where I spent that day as well as much of the following day, which I believe was a Wednesday. We watched CNN and everything else we could for updates from the EOC which I fondly refer to as "the bunker."

2. What will you always remember about that day?

I remember that I just wanted to make sure my kids were OK. At the time, my daughter Meredith was living and teaching in Chicago -- it was her first year of teaching, and I was so worried about her living in a big, major U.S. city. Who knew where else these terrorists would attack? My son was in high school at Cranbrook, so I was less concerned about him, because he was close by. I kept trying to call my daughter but couldn't reach her until late in the afternoon.

I also remember thinking about the randomness of these attacks. The innocent people who boarded airplanes that morning and thought they were just taking a routine flight -- I kept thinking about them and how often I'd been on planes and how it could have been any of us who were so tragically killed that day. And I remember an overwhelming sadness about the whole day, and when I went home and Peter Jennings was on the nightly news reporting on the scene in New York, I just felt overwhelmed with sadness. And I remember that the news shifted to London, England, where the Queen's band or orchestra or some official musicians played the Star Spangled Banner in a show of solidarity with the United States, and I started to cry. It was so moving, and I was so touched by that scene outside Buckingham Palace.

3. How -- if at all -- has your life changed?

I think I have a better sense of trying to be in the present -- because that's really all we have. I don't worry so much about the future because of the randomness of so many things that happen in life. This doesn't mean I don't plan for the future, but it does mean I have a better sense of appreciation for each day.

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Joan P. Vestrand

Associate Dean,

Ann Arbor Campus

Thomas M. Cooley Law School

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1. Where were you on September 11 when you realized we had been attacked by terrorists?

I was at the Oakland County Courthouse on a juvenile matter when the news suddenly broke. Immediate steps were taken to secure the facility and to increase security because the extent of what was happening to our nation was still unknown. There was a sudden police presence everywhere. It was scary and surreal and mind numbing.

2. What will you always remember about that day?

Gathering my children home from school and sitting together in our family room watching the events unfold on TV just supporting one another through what we were seeing and staying close as a family.

3. How -- if at all -- has your life changed?

It was a stark reminder of how fragile life is and all we hold dear and how much we are in this together -- that we are more alike than different and I felt renewed pride in what we stand for as a nation. Since that day I spend more time appreciating things and not taking so much for granted.

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Paul J. Manion

Rutledge Manion

Rebaut Terry Thomas

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1. Where were you on September 11 when you realized we had been attacked by terrorists?

I was in trial before the visiting judge in Oakland County with Stuart Freedman and Art Jaklanen. We watched the events unfold during breaks when we could watch the TV set up by the deputies at security.

2. What will you always remember about that day?

Watching the events on that day and in the days to follow with a sense of total disbelief, a profound sorrow for the victims, their families and the country at large. I also experienced a tremendous surge of patriotism and resolve.

3. How -- if at all -- has your life changed?

I refused to let the terrorists change any aspect of my life. It did make me more aware of my surroundings during travel.

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E. Christopher

Johnson

Associate Professor and

Director of the LL. M. in

Corporate Law and Finance,

Thomas M. Cooley Law School

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1. Where were you on September 11 when you realized we had been attacked by terrorists?

I was at work as vice president and general counsel of GM North America. I had gone downstairs to get something and when I came back everyone was watching TV after the first plane hit. Then the second plane hit and we all knew this was more than an accident. I called the GM crisis center and was told to hold fast so there would not be a panic heading for the elevators. After hearing about the Pentagon and the flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, I felt I had to take action because it was clear the country was under attack. My West Point training on the one hand was saying follow the orders not to evacuate. On the other hand, it was reminding me that I had responsibility for 250 people sitting in the most prominent building in Detroit -- GM World Headquarters in the Renaissance Center. So I called my four managing attorneys and told them to start sending their people five at a time so as not to create congestion on the elevators or parking structures and to call me when all their people were out. In the meantime, I had communicated with my two children -- my daughter at U of M and son at Brother Rice -- and they were headed home and asked me when I was gong to be leaving. I told them as soon as all of my staff was gone then I would leave. It was at that moment that I also realized that as a single parent (my wife having died less than 2 years earlier) I had to also protect myself for my children. As I received the calls from the managing attorneys that all their people were gone, I walked through the staff and found a handful of people who were still working and wanted to stay. I wished them well and then I left.

2. What will you always remember about that day?

Well, aside from what I just described, seeing the Twin Towers falling was just terrible. I was from New York, having lived in the New York City area for most of my life from 1960 to 1988 when I came to Michigan. From 1982 to 1988, I lived in New Jersey and came through the World Trade Center every day. So the Twin Towers had become a regular part of my life, and to see them gone was just unbelievable.

3. How -- if at all -- has your life changed?

Well, I started to reconnect with God. Together with my wife's recent death, this became the wakeup call to Jesus' words "that nobody knows the day or the hour" so I started to go to church and search for that connection. A few months later God would bring my new wife Rhonda, a Godly woman, into my life and she would provide the spiritual connection to God that persists to this day.

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Chief Justice

Robert P. Young Jr.

Michigan Supreme Court

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What will you always remember about that day?

I was in Southfield that morning with Carl Gromek, then Supreme Court chief of staff, and Marcus Dobek, director of Judicial Information Systems for the State Court Administrative Office. We were working on a technology plan for the state courts when someone came in and said, "Turn on the TV." We saw the footage of the first tower going down, and while we were still trying to process the horror we had just witnessed, we saw the second tower fall. Later, downtown in my office, we were all panicked when a couple of low flying planes were seen heading along the Detroit River.

Like most people, I was anxious about my family and what this kind of attack meant for our future. In some ways, I suppose the airplane attacks on 9/11 must have engendered the same kind of sense of violation as the Pearl Harbor attack. But unlike Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 attacks lacked the clarity of an act of war by a nation, instead involving individual terrorists of no certain nationality who may have been united only by religious or political ideological hostility to our country. This added to our uncertainty of not knowing just how large-scale an attack this was and who our foes were.

Before September 11, we had a sense of complete freedom of movement, which is now gone, and a sense that we were physically isolated from the terrors with which others over seas were forced to live. These attacks robbed us of our complacency about being able to come and go as we please and our physical sense of security.

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James E.

Logan

President, CEO of

James E. Logan & Associates, Ltd.

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What will you always remember about that day?

On the morning of 9/11/01 I was in my office and had just started to review a new case that involved multiple fatalities from three families who were hit by a semi truck and died instantly. I just finished reading the police report when one of my employees came into my office and asked if I had heard the news.

That evening, I remember looking back on the day's events and thinking about how badly I felt for the three families that were killed in the semi-truck accident I had been reviewing that morning. I reminded myself that in a split second lives can the snuffed out and horrific life-altering injuries can be sustained. The accident that took the lives of the three family members was miniscule compared to the airliner disasters of that day and yet they were nonetheless tragic and life-altering. I remember sitting in front of the TV in much the same way as I did when President Kennedy was killed, listening to the nonstop news reports and trying to digest and make sense of what had taken place. The days following began to decipher the tragic event and it became clear that unknowingly, America had let its guard down.

The reality is that this single disaster, made us aware that evil lurks in just about any place and we have no choice but to step-up our vigilance. From the Fort Hood massacre to the tragedy with the Gabby Gifford political event shooting and, most recently the Carson City Nevada senseless shooting, we are reminded the world is not the safe place we wish it to be. This single event that took place on 9/11 changed the way we behave and the way we look at one another.

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