9/12/01: Current, former residents of area were at scene

This story originally appeared on Sept. 12, 2001.

East Central Illinois isn't as far away from New York and Washington as you might think.

Several current or former residents of the area talked Tuesday about the events in the two cities, where hijacked planes rammed into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in the nation's capital.

Here are some of their stories.

The first thing Jason Northrup's older brother Kaleb did when he called around 11:30 Tuesday morning was ask about Jason's jaw, broken recently in an off-road riding accident.

Then Kaleb mentioned a presentation he had been giving earlier in the morning on the 63rd floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center.

"He actually talked to me about my jaw first," Jason, 25, of Mahomet recalled. "He didn't even mention it."

"I said, 'Are you watching the news?' "

"He said, 'I'm in New York.' He told me he was on the 63rd floor doing his presentation."

The first airliner striking the building ended that.

"He said it was just like a big shaking and rumbling. Obviously, something was going on," Jason said. "They immediately started evacuating to the stairwell. He got out fine. He said everything was nice and orderly. But when he was going out, all the police and firemen were rushing in. As far as he knew, everybody in the immediate area got out."

In the street "there were thousands of people standing around," Kaleb told his brother. "He said everything was covered in dust. It was just incomprehensible to him that something like that was going on. I guess you can't put it to scale."

Kaleb Northrup and the people he was with left the area quickly. Later, when the tower collapsed from the damage, the first thing his brother thought about was the emergency personnel, Jason said.

"The first thing he thought was all those people rushing back in. After the building collapsed, he started thinking about the police and firemen he saw rushing in there."

Kaleb Northrup, who graduated from Mahomet-Seymour High School and Parkland College, is director of presales for Adaytum Inc. in Minnesota, said his father, Kevin Northrup of Mahomet.

The 30-year-old travels extensively for his job, but his family didn't know he was scheduled to be in the New York until he called.

"We just saw him last week and he didn't mention he was going to New York," Kevin Northrup said. "But he goes so many places it's just not a big deal any more."

"It was the furthest thing from my mind," was what Jason said he was thinking when his brother told him not only that he was in New York but but also that he had been in the World Trade Center. "As far as I knew, he was in Minneapolis. I couldn't hardly react to it just because it was not even an option."

On the 45th floor of a New York office building, John Amberg walked into a conference room with floor-to-ceiling windows where a crowd of people silently gaped at the World Trade Center a mile away.

Minutes later, as they tried to reschedule the meeting that was supposed to take place, the 26-year-old lawyer watched the first tower crumble in a cloud of dust.

"It was chilling to see it happen and know it was happening in real time," the Urbana High School graduate said. "I don't know that anyone expected it to collapse it didn't look like it was leaning. ... It certainly at first seemed like you were watching a film or movie."

The building superintendent then decided it was time to evacuate the building, and Amberg said he spent no time waiting around to watch the second building collapse. He was able to call his father, Urbana schools Superintendent Gene Amberg, to describe the scene and say he was OK.

Masses of people, who had been evacuated from buildings and were unable to get off Manhattan Island because of closed bridges and tunnels, camped out in hotel lobbies and restaurants, he said.

"I saw people crying and hugging each other," he said. "A lot of people are concerned because they knew people that worked in the buildings."

As he got ready Tuesday morning thinking about the deposition he was going to take, he heard the news of the plane crashes, and wondered how his plans would change.

"I didn't know at the time the magnitude of what it would become," he said.

Chancellor Nancy Cantor, along with many University of Illinois students and faculty members, spent much of Tuesday trying to reach family members in New York City to make sure they were unhurt.

Cantor, who grew up in New York, has parents in midtown Manhattan and a brother, nieces and nephews living in lower Manhattan. She finally reached them all by late afternoon.

"He watched the whole thing," Cantor said of her brother. "He was obviously deeply upset."

"We need to recognize we have many students and staff and faculty with family and loved ones in areas that have been hit," she said. "It's such a tragedy for everybody. It's very important for the country and community that we come together and enforce our ties of interdependence. We need support those who come from far away, those who feel vulnerable because of their particular faith or heritage. These are times when everybody feels vulnerable." Tae Vaughn

When Tae Vaughn arrived at work at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning in Danville, the terrorism attack on New York and Washington D.C. hit home, as she desperately tried to make several calls.

Vaughn's husband, Jerry, works for the U.S. Defense Department in Washington during the week and flies back to their Indiana home every weekend.

"I was in shock and tried to call him in the morning, but I couldn't get through," said Tae Vaughn, who is co-owner of CD- Xchange at 32 N. Vermilion St.

Finally, after 11 a.m., Jerry called and said he was fine. Tae said the conversation lasted about 10 minutes and consisted mostly of Jerry calming her down.

Tae said her husband makes regular trips to the Pentagon during his work week.

Jerry was scheduled to arrive back in Indiana on Friday morning, but Tae knows there are no guarantees.

"I hope he is able to come back soon, but that might not happen," she said.

Tae said she simply wishes her husband were at home.

"I'm just going to go home and wait for his call tonight," she said. "Thank God he didn't fly today."

Pat Stevens, a former owner of Circles in downtown Champaign and former member of the Champaign Human Relations Commission, now lives in the New York suburb of Westchester, which borders the Bronx.

Stevens said after hearing the news of the bombing early this morning, she went to her store, Iris, in Bronxville.

"The street was eerily absent of people," she said. "But at Pete's Tavern, which is kind of like the Esquire in Champaign, it was packed, everybody watching TV and consoling each other."

At one point in the morning, all phone service, including cellphones, was out, and so was local TV, but that didn't last.

"Now it feels like an armed camp," she said. "The weirdest thing is the military planes flying overhead. You can see them. You can hear them every 10 minutes. And the skyline's changed. The World Trade Center towers are synonymous with the skyline and they're gone. It's like this can't be New York."

Stevens' husband, Jim, works on Long Island and was staying in a hotel because he couldn't get home with the bridges closed. Some friends in the city were going to walk home, she said.

"Everybody's in a state of shock. If you live in New York, it's hard not to know someone who works in the Trade Center," she said. "I have two friends who work there and I haven't been able to reach them yet. It's horrifying."

It was early Tuesday afternoon before University of Illinois graduate student Amanda Tinkelman heard from the last family member unaccounted for in New York City.

Tinkelman, a New York native, said her mother was safely in Queens when two hijacked planes rammed into the World Trade Center. Her father was out of town in Champaign-Urbana, in fact, visiting his daughter. And her uncle, who teaches at a university in Manhattan, was also safe.

But until 2 p.m., no one had heard from her cousin Eli, 16, who attends a New York high school close to the Trade Center. Then Eli, whose birthday was Tuesday, reported via e-mail that he had been safely evacuated from the school.

"He saw the second plane from the window in French class," Tinkelman said. "He said it was the scariest thing he ever saw."

It was nearly impossible to get through to New York by phone on Tuesday, so Tinkelman's family set up a common e-mail site to relay updates to everyone at once.

Tinkelman awoke Tuesday to the news of terrorist attacks that literally changed the skyline of the city she calls home.

"I jumped out of bed, thinking, 'Is this real?' " she said. "The fact that it was my neighborhood, my home, made it seem unbelievable.

"I've been glued to the TV all day," she said. "When I saw the towers go down, all I could think of were all those people still in the building."

Tinkelman, 25, who is studying medicine and neuroscience at the UI, earned her bachelor's degree at New York University, not far from the World Trade Center. She had an apartment near the Empire State Building and frequently shopped in the financial district.

She recalled taking pictures on graduation day of her friends who weren't from New York City.

"I said, 'Why don't you get the Trade Center in the background?' That picture is probably kind of a bittersweet thing right now."

Ora Seward did not have her television on Tuesday morning when a plane crashed into the Pentagon, so it was news to her when her daughter, Georgia, who works at the Pentagon, called Ora to let her know that she was OK.

Georgia, a Danville native and Danville High School graduate, has been in the military for years and has worked at the Pentagon for about one year, her mother said.

Fortunately, Georgia did not have to be at work until 1 p.m. EST Tuesday, so she was not in her office when the plane crash took place. However, her residence is one block from the Pentagon, so she had to evacuate her home, her mother said. Georgia didn't know where she would be relocated when she talked to her mother.

Ora Seward said she expects to hear from her daughter again in the next day or so, but feels confident that her daughter will still be safe even though she doesn't yet know where they've relocated her.Mark Fruendt

As soon as he heard about the plane that flew into the Pentagon, Mark Fruendt started worrying about his brother, Col. Jonathan Fruendt, who is based there.

"He was commander of the U.S. Army hospital at Fort Knox until the end of July, and he's been at the Pentagon since Aug. 1," said Fruendt, a Monticello resident and automotive instructor at Parkland College.

His brother, a Watseka native who's now deputy surgeon general, finally got word to his family at about 11 a.m.

"Word came to his wife from my brother's boss' wife that my brother was helping evacuate people," Mark Fruendt said. "About 1 p.m., he called our sister, confirmed that he's OK and said he'll call later with more details."

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