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Remembering The 9/11 Attacks 20 Years Later

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm your host Bob Zaltsberg. My cohost today is Sara Wittmeyer the news bureau chief of WFIU and WTIU. And we are talking with guests about the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The events are the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history. And those who experienced or witnessed them say that it changed their lives forever. We're going to talk with three guests today - Jim Buher past director of administrative services at the IU O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Buher was in the Pentagon on 9/11 with a group of Crane employees. Greg Gates is with us. He is deputy fire marshal for Lawrence Fire Department. Gates was deployed to Ground Zero in New York as a member of the Indiana Task Force One. And Daniel Orr, the chef and owner of FARMbloomington, he was living in New York City on 9/11. He has some memories of that day. If you have questions or comments you can send them to us at You can also follow us on Twitter at Noon Edition. We're still not back in the studio. We hope to be soon but with COVID raging the way it is it's hard to say when we'll be able to get back in the studio to be able to take some calls. Thank you all for being here today. I want to start by talking about what happened in New York and then move on to the Pentagon. We don't have anybody here to talk about what happened in the field in Pennsylvania but that was the other place where a jetliner went down. So let's talk about - let's start in New York and talk with Daniel Orr, the chef owner of FARMbloomington. Daniel what were you doing at the time? 

>>DANIEL ORR: Well it was pretty much the pinnacle my career in New York. I had opened up Guastavino restaurant which was a 700-seat huge project by Terence Conran. And we had just had - the night before we had had our first year anniversary and had celebrated that. So I was a little bit maybe hung over the next morning and our HR department called me and told me you know we're going to be closed today and I asked why. And my friend there Christopher (unintelligible) he said turn on your TV. I did so and saw what had happened. And I had actually bought a place on 42nd Street, a penthouse apartment. I had a rooftop garden. So I ran up a little spiral staircase. And I actually saw the second plane hit the tower and you know from there. You know we didn't know what to do what was happening. We knew it wasn't an accident. And then I started calling my friends who lived down that area and wasn't able to get ahold of anybody and finally started touching base with some of my friends whose apartments had actually gotten destroyed. And they said - they were walking up and I ended up you know holding people - helping people in my house you know stay for a few days until we could arrange things. And I had boyfriends of other people riding their bicycles down from Connecticut to see - to make sure that everybody is OK. And you know it was a day that really changed my life. And you know I've just recently been going through some emotional trauma and that definitely came up in the therapy I was going through. And it just changed my whole life. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We'll get back to some of the details and some of the ways it's still affecting you. I wanted to bring in Greg Gates. I know you went to Ground Zero. So where were you when you heard about what had happened? 

>>GREG GATES: I was working at Indianapolis Fire Station 7. And we like most of America were watching it on TV. I got a call from my wife as she was watching it as well and asked after the second plane had hit if they were going to activate our task force and send us. And at that time I told her no. I didn't think so that New York Fire Department has a lot of firefighters. They'll be able to handle this. And as time went on and the buildings fell, I got another phone call from her. And the call came in just as the second building fell. And I said well I don't know if we're going to be deployed or not. And then the call came in on the department line we called a syntrex. And they said that we had been activated and to pack a bag and report to the staging area. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Greg as a firefighter what were your thoughts when you saw those high rise buildings that were - you know that were burning and knowing the firefighters were in there. You know what were your thoughts? 

>>GREG GATES: Well I was - as I was talking to my wife I said they have enough firefighters to handle this. But I feared that with the size of fire that was there that it may end up killing some of the firefighters and unfortunately way more than I would have ever imagined. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We'll get back to New York here in a few minutes. We've got close to an hour that we're going to try to cover as much as we can. But I want to bring Jim Buher in because John was in the Pentagon on that day. Jim can you tell us what you were doing there? 

>>JIM BUHER: Sure. I was working with Indiana University and we had a contract with the Crane naval weapons support center to provide some executive education. We actually had a what we call a public management certificate program that we were - had offered. And we were working with engineers and professional people from Crane. This course - this certificate was five courses. The first four courses we would actually do the work in Indianapolis that we'd give them some reading materials, have them come in and help us for a week and then write a paper on that. The fifth week of that we called a lab course where we took these employees from Crane to Washington D.C. And each week out there we would - we had sort of the same format that we would - Monday would be a day the instructor would tell them who they were going to see that week, why they were seeing them and why they were important to them. Tuesday we'd go to the Pentagon. And there we talked to the comptroller the Navy. We would talk to various admirals and people involved in their area. So they get the military perspective. Wednesday we would go to Capitol Hill, talk to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, a few other individuals, get the congressional perspective. Thursday was in the old executive building part of the White House where we would talk to the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Agency. And then Friday was wrap up. So they really have a broad experience in D.C. and how things affected them. So this Tuesday was no different then. We were going to spend Tuesday at the Pentagon. And that morning we'd taken the bus from the hotel. It was a little bit late but we took the bus to the Pentagon. So while we were on the bus is when everything else happened. So we knew nothing of what was going on. We got to the Pentagon that morning, got into the building. And the first meeting we had was with the undersecretary of the Navy, the Honorable Susan Livingstone. And she is the first one that told us as we have met with her to start with that she had to cut her program short because of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. So that was the first time we had heard anything about it or knew anything about it. So that's why I was there with the Crane class for the sort of executive education program and the public management certificate. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Now you weren't just in the Pentagon but you were basically as it turned out you were within yards of where the plane actually hit. 

>>JIM BUHER: Yes. The section of the Pentagon we were in was the first section the Pentagon that they had decided to remodel to strengthen it in case of any kind of a terrorist attack. So the section we went into was - really hadn't opened yet. A few people had moved in. I think they said that in that quadrant or that wedge that maybe 700 people were there working where normally there would have been 5000. But the section we went into - the conference room we later found out was - because the plane came in and took out floors 1 and 2. We were on floor 5 probably about 50 feet from where the plane actually came into the building. So yes we were very close. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We're going to talk more about your harrowing escape and it truly was harrowing in a little bit. But I want to go back to New York now and bring in Daniel Orr again. And Daniel you know we've seen lots of pictures of what was going on that day, the great clouds of dust, the people on the streets not really knowing what was going on. I mean you described how you know you had a lot of people coming to where you were. Can you sort of you know take us there? Take us to that day and what it was like for you. 

>>DANIEL ORR: Well my apartment was in Hell's Kitchen which if you don't know that's kind of lower midtown. And it's right by the Intrepid Museum. So those - it's wide streets. And I lived between 10th and 11th. So it was easy for people to walk up the you know the riverside of the island. And they did - you know my friends arrived with dust on their faces and in their hair and with you know fright and anxiety and you know all those things. And you know we got them washed up and you know some of them ended up sleeping in my pajamas which were pretty much too big for most of them (laughter). But you know we tried to take care of each other as best we could. You know and then like I said other people came in from you know New Jersey and Connecticut to check on their friends mostly riding bikes. And you know the whole subway system was closed down because one of the biggest hubs is right down there at where the Twin Towers stood. And so you know it forced people to walk most places. But I think everything just closed down. And you know it was such a big thing that I think really internalized you know of lot of my emotional future. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Yeah. I'm curious. What do you do in that moment? What - how did you - you know what did you - I mean how did you know what to do with yourself? Like you said everything's closed down it's not like you go to work. 

>>DANIEL ORR: Right. Right. Yeah. Well you know it does put you in kind of a hyper stressful mode you know, gives me that fight or flight kind of feeling. And you know I've turned that into taking care of people and trying to help other people calm down. And sometimes I do that a little too much and it adds you know a lot of that kind of caregiver strain on me which I'm you know learning how to deal with. But it was amazing. And it also kind of turned the city into a bunch of small villages. It was no longer Manhattan. It was you know the West Village, the Lower East Side, Midtown, Hell's Kitchen, Upper East Side. And you kind of stayed in that little village and ate at those restaurants and shopped at those markets. And there was a lot more eye contact on the streets and people just kind of sharing much more emotion even you know non-verbal on the streets of New York which normally is a place where everybody - no one looks at anybody in the eyes. Only tourists look up at the buildings. And you know it really changed the whole feeling of the city and it became a much more caring place and people actually were much more like Midwesterners in that you know saying hello to people you don't know at the grocery store, you know all those kinds of things. But for me I was working in this huge restaurant that actually you know 700 seats. There was a fine dining restaurant over a 500-seat bistro. And those kind of places no one want to go to because this one was actually underneath the Queensboro Bridge. And that brings all the tower over from Queens to Manhattan. So it was a prime - it was built underneath the bridge. The bottom of the bridge was the top of the restaurant. And so that became a major possible target. So you know we had to really change the way we did business and just a heck of a lot of stress and strain. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Greg Gates you were deployed to go there. What were - you know as you got ready to go and as you know you were making your way to New York from Indiana, I mean what kind of thought process were you going through? 

>>GREG GATES: We were trying to prepare ourselves for what we may come across. There were speeches made by task force members that had some experience in mass casualty events, trying to prepare us for the finding of bodies, the potential for finding survivors and kind of develop a mental preparedness as you were - as we were traveling. People were trying to get some sleep when they could. But most everybody was for lack of a better word so amped that sleep was not something that came easily. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So when did you actually pull into the city and what were the first things that you saw? 

>>GREG GATES: We arrived in the city and did somewhat of a survey before we actually broke into two teams. One team went back to the convention center and set up camp so to speak. And the other team started the search process. There was - when we first got there, there were still a lot of civilian personnel that came out and assisted in just passing buckets, in picking up debris and moving it. A tremendous amount of dust in the air - the amount of dust is I couldn't describe it to be adequate. But the dust was on everything and including us. They did - I forget whether it was the second day or third day. Sometime soon after we started operations on 12-hour shifts, they covered all the seats with plastic. And we would strip down once we got back to the convention center and decon, get showers, clean up and then get as much rest as we could to begin the next shift. But once it rained, you know I forget which day it actually - what day it rained. But when it rained there was a lot more color to the work area to Ground Zero. Before, everything had that dust color. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Now meanwhile Jim we're going to go back to you. You were in the Pentagon. You had I believe there were 31 so you maybe 33 of you counting the two people with the armed forces. The plane had hit about 50 feet from where you were. So you know what was that like? What happened? How did you get out of there? 

>>JIM BUHER: OK. The undersecretary had said that she would - had to cut her presentation short because she had to get to the ready room and talk with - about the issues. About 9:30 she finished her presentation. The class (unintelligible) is paying attention because this is the first we'd heard about the terrorists. But she went and gave a presentation she normally would have. About 9:30 she ended her presentation. The captain with her said ma'am we have to go. And she said well I'm going to take one question first. And she took one question. It took about four or five minutes to answer it. And just as she was finishing her answering the question which actually saved her life later on we found out. But just as soon as she finished it all of a sudden we more felt than heard. There was no explosion. But it was more like a I'd say more like air rushing, more vroom kind of a sound. And things shook. I can remember the ceiling tile shaking a little bit. The light fixture shaking and a little bit of smoke started coming in from the registers around the edge of the floor. But then it was very calm and it quit. And the undersecretary made a comment. She said well it must be a terrorist attack. We need to get out of here. And everybody calmly closed all their briefcases, put all their stuff away. Within a minute or two all of a sudden then more smoke started coming in. And you could tell things were getting worse. So in order to get to that conference room we were in, at the Pentagon you always go into the center of the Pentagon to the A ring, find your quarter, go out to the E ring which is the farthest one out and then advance from there. We had gone down a long corridor from the A ring to the E ring. And then we had turned and gone probably 120 feet down just a narrow corridor there. It was eight foot wide eight foot tall and where the conference room was. There was a wall there at the end of that corridor and a stairwell that went down and our conference room door is right beside it. So as they started leaving they - immediately they thought they would go back the way they came. So they started back down the hallway. And I was at the very end of - at almost the end of the group because I would always sit in the back of the class and kind of watch what was going on, in charge of logistics. And within just a few moments the people in the front of the class, the undersecretary, they yelled and said you can't go that way. They had run into three people who were actually working in that wing and those people had said - when they met them they said you can't go out that way the way we came in. You have to go back to the stairs. So all the classes that were out there turned to go to the stairwell. Two people in front of me - there are two men there - tried to open the doors to the stairs and they had trouble getting it open. They finally were able to open it up. It was a solid door. They finally opened it up and realized that most of the stairs were going. It was full of smoke. So they said we can't go that way. You've got to go back the other way. So they turned and started back down the corridor again. And just as I got out in the hallway, smoke had started filling this corridor. And you learned in first grade that if you have smoke you stay low and cover your mouth. And I can remember taking my handkerchief out of my pocket putting it over my mouth and nose. I did not get on my knees or anything but I actually did bend over as far as I could because the smoke was starting to fill the top. And about that time someone yelled and said watch your step which we thought was puzzling because this was a flat corridor. And so probably oh maybe 30 or 40 feet maybe 50 feet away from the classroom all of a sudden I came to that step. And it was down about 12 to 18 inches I would guess. It was - as I recall it was not an easy step. You actually had to kind of jump down a little. And what we discovered later was that is the - was the expansion joint in the building where the wedge had actually started to fall but had not fallen completely yet. Just after that step the emergency lights then went out. And at this point it was pretty much totally black, totally dark. I remember touching the side wall and the side wall was hot. And things got very dark. Everyone stayed calm. I can remember thinking to myself very honestly that well this is it. I'm not going be able get out of here. This is the only way out and I don't know what's ahead. But I was very calm, very calm feeling. I thought about the wife and family and the girls. And - but you just kept moving. And within a few - anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes I have no idea about timing - we heard a voice. Different people thought they heard different things. But what I recall is hearing - is a man saying there's light at the end of the tunnel. Follow my voice. Grab the person in front of you and keep moving. And I remember reaching out and grabbing someone. It was a man because I had a sport coat. I wasn't at the end of the line because someone grabbed me in the back. And you continued to stay low and kept moving. And within a minute or two all of a sudden you could actually see a little bit of light down in this - into this corridor. And it started getting lighter. And we got to the end of the corridor and there was a man crouched down in a uniform at the edge of the thing yelling keep moving. Keep moving. And there's two other gentlemen in Navy uniforms also standing beyond him directly as back down the corridor to this - to the center A ring where they then got us out of the building. So we didn't know quite where we were. We were finally got out to the parking lot and I got everyone together and checked their names off to make sure everyone was accounted for. And just as we were doing that we heard this loud sort of crash. And not necessarily an explosion but a loud crash and we found out later that was when the wedge collapsed that we had escaped over. We didn't know that at the time. We just heard the noise. So the afternoon, it took us about an hour and a half to get back to the hotel. We had to walk back because obviously the metros are shut down. Everything was shut down, traffic. And it took us about an hour and half to get back to the hotel. And then when we did a lot of things happened. But one of things was I was trying to get everyone together so we could talk to them and make sure everyone was OK and start talking about how we was going to get back. But like everyone else I turned the TV on and the TV showed the wedge missing from the Pentagon. And I was interviewed by several people including Bob who called and I said I actually don't know where we were because I know we were close and I know that we walked over an area that was really black and dark and hot and smoky. But I really don't know where we were because I know we went counterclockwise. And actually it wasn't till the next morning when we went downstairs to breakfast. The Washington Post had some schematics in the paper. And that is really the first time we realized that the area we crossed over where it got very black was directly over the plane and that the only escape route we had was that wedge. And that wedge had started dropping already. But that wedge was still in place. The noise we heard in the parking lot was when that wedge collapsed. So anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes after we got out was that - was when that wedge actually collapsed. And we have an email that we received. A short time later we were corresponding with the - Christine Glass who is the engineer for the Pentagon refurbishing. And she actually sent an email to us in response to a question that said - her exact words were it is a miracle that the wedge did not collapse immediately because the girders that had been destroyed caused the remaining girders to carry weight load two and three times what they were designed to carry. And she said there is no theoretical, no engineering reason why that building did not collapse immediately. But luckily it had collapsed about 12 to 18 inches but did not collapse fully so that was our escape route. That's how we got out and we finally got back to the hotel. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I'm going to give our phone number or our contact information again. Then I'm going to turn it over to Sara. If you have questions or comments you can send them to us to We're also on Twitter at Noon Edition. And I should say that yes indeed. I called. Sometimes journalists get - have some good fortune. My wife worked with Jim's wife. I got Jim's cell phone number that day and talked to him right after he got back to the hotel for a story for the newspaper I was working for at the time. Sara? 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Jim, did everyone in your group make it out OK? 

>>JIM BUHER: Yes. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Everyone made it out. 

>>JIM BUHER: And they were - amazingly they were very mature, very calm. The undersecretary of the Navy actually called me later that day and wanted to make sure everyone got - she apologized for having to kind of head off on her own but said - she made a comment that she was so impressed about how everyone stayed very calm, very orderly, followed instructions about getting out. And she was just very impressed with them. So they all got out that way and they - no one was injured. And to my knowledge no one had any aftereffects emotionally that I'm aware of. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: It's really interesting because you said someone made a comment that it must be a terrorist. That's just something that I don't feel like as civilians that we commonly heard before 9/11. So how long was it before you knew what had happened? 

>>JIM BUHER: Well as I said the undersecretary and knew about the World Trade Center. And she's the one that told us about the terrorist attack there. But she assumed it was a bomb at the Pentagon. And we didn't know it was a plane until we were actually out in the parking lot and of course everyone was mumbling. And everyone was talking trying to find out what you could. And that's the first time that we had heard that it was actually a plane that also had hit the Pentagon. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Back in New York Greg Gates you are starting to dig out and try to find people. So I'd like for you to talk a little about how surreal that must have been trying to - you know that you could run into - I would assume you could run into injured people to random people who were dead you could run into people who were alive that you needed to rescue. 

>>GREG GATES: Yes, that's our mission. We were there to try to rescue those say that could be saved those people that were or our hopes were that we would find someone that was in a location that they were protected yet they could not have a means of getting out on their own. And fortunately for our time there we were unable to find anybody that was still alive that was in the buildings at the time of the collapse. Most everybody got out and couldn't get out. They got out on their own a few people were actually rescued not that there weren't some but most of that was started before we got there. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: For both you and Daniel or in New York, what was the - I mean Dan you talked a little bit about the atmosphere and how people were sort of banding together. But from a - I guess from a political standpoint I mean this was a case where there were a lot of people that were confused that were wondering you know where we under attack where we're going to be - were there going to be more attacks? What was the basic feeling like in New York in those days following the attacks? 

>>DANIEL ORR: Well being a restaurant guy we were trying to help any way we could, we were sending food down to the firefighters to the people on the front line. We organized to help people that were in the restaurant industry. I actually knew Michael in Monaco who was the executive chef at Windows on the world which was on top of the tower and he'd actually taken an elevator down to get to pick up some glass and he was having it fixed when it happened and you know he'd lost his all crew. So we were dealing with a lot lots of situations like that just within our own industry of trying to help others. And I think that a lot of people in the restaurant business hospitality I mean that is what we do we are caregivers. And we try to give wherever we can. And it really brought the city together that way. Everyone was trying to support those frontline people. And it was it was amazing to see people gather and and come together and do that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Greg is one of the frontline people. How important was that kind of support? 

>>GREG GATES: Well, I did not know Dan. But I know of the location that Dan is speaking of where the restaurants the chefs brought food down and had it available for us in a store front that had been significantly damaged. And Dan maybe you're familiar with what was known to us on the ground as the tarps. 

>>DANIEL ORR: Yeah, yeah absolutely. 

>>GREG GATES: We actually by FEMA we were not allowed to go in there to eat. The process of eating anything that wasn't supplied through FEMA lends the possibility to poisoning and so forth. But Dan you'd be proud to know that many of us snuck over and under that tarp to partake of other companies that you all provided. 

>>DANIEL ORR: It was... yeah I'm sure it was better than the Radisson's. 

>>GREG GATES: It absolutely was. Thank you. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Greg, again, from your standpoint as a firefighter I mean this must have had a very lasting impact on you. I mean it's been 20 years now. Is it something that sticks with you? 

>>GREG GATES: It absolutely does. I'm confident that I can say it sticks with all of us that were there and anyone who's watched the events unfold on TV at different levels. One of the hardest parts for us was arriving and talking to other New York firefighters about those that were either missing or known to be dead. We had our task force restored to New York to Puerto Rico for a hurricane some time before this event and got to know some of those folks and got to be quite good friends and then to arrive as we were walking through the scene running into firefighters and asking, hey have yu about so-and-so when they then to be said well they're missing at this point or he was in the bottom of Tower Two when it fell and passed the remembrance of that we'll probably live forever. And I hope we all never forget to stay. And I appreciate efforts like this to make sure that others don't forget. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right Sara. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Yeah. I will ask Daniel Orr about that too. I mean I'm sure in New York everyone knows someone who was in the towers that day? What about you personally? 

>>DANIEL ORR: Well being in the restaurant business you know everyone knows everybody we're kind of a undercover family and there are lots of late night chefs driven restaurants that everyone goes on after service and so you meet people from all over the island. And yeah, my friend Valerie had worked at the window on the world. Luckily she was working for me at the time. But she had so many connections with people at that restaurant you know and a lot of a lot of places around that. I mean all of those restaurants closed, all those they were really kind of clubby lunch restaurants for a lot of stockbrokers. So I knew a lot of people that worked in those restaurants as well. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Curious about, again, Greg Gates - what were those shifts like that you were working? I mean when did you when you get an opportunity to rest? 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: On a typical day there would be a 12 hour period where we would be on site and searching we would take breaks periodically but at the end of the twelve hours. We would take a bus ride back to the convention center where as I mentioned before we would decon, get showered up for us our first meal was breakfast. Then we would attempt to get typically three or four hours of sleep and we'd be back ready to go back down again. Once we got back on the buses, we would be on site and ready to go. And the day shift within get on the buses and ride the bus back. That's the typical day. There was a group of people massage therapist that offered massages to the folks at the convention center. And typically that was a gateway into getting a little bit of rest. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: How did this change the job of being a firefighter. I mean I'm sure that you theoretically you know, you always knew, well, you know we could be in a situation where we're running into a burning building. And it's gonna be really dangerous. But a lot of these firefighters had to know that the likelihood they'd make it out was perhaps pretty small. 

>>GREG GATES: Absolutely. The men and women that went into that building to rescue those that were trapped especially above the fire floor they knew they had a battle ahead of them and that the probability of making it out was slim. The attitude of those that went - the photos that you see of those climbing the steps, it's obvious to them in their faces in their eyes that they knew that that was likely to be their last stair climb. Fortunately there were a number of people that make it out. But unfortunately so many lost their lives. I think people in public safety in general recognize the fact that when they leave for work in the morning whether that's a firefighter or a police officer or any a mass worker that the chance that they won't come home is there. I think that - in my opinion the real heroes are those significant others, the wives, husbands, children the parents of those people that put the uniform on and go out each day. In the academy you're taught that not whether you're going to get hurt but it's how bad you get hurt, and that that hurt could mean death. The public safety personnel certainly get to experience the stimulation of the significant others others. The people that I call heroes don't get to experience the stimulation but they experience all of the horror of outcome. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Thank you. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Greg did you know when you responded that this wouldn't be so much of a rescue mission a s just a recovery mission. 

>>GREG GATES: No I think I was pretty naive along those lines. I thought that there could possibly be some pockets where people could be trapped in that we could tunnel into where they were and be able to rescue them out of that situation. I don't remember exactly which day it was but there was a day of coming to grips with the idea that we aren't likely going to find anyone alive. The ground zero you hear a lot of people talk about smells, odors. There was an odor one day that was part of that realization that we weren't going to find anybody else alive. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Jim Buher I know you know as we both mentioned, I mean we talked on the phone that day and you had a - you knew that you'd escaped from something that was very, very dangerous. But when you go back and you look at some people might be able to conjure up in their mind's eye, picture that section that wedge out of the out of the Pentagon and that that big piece that's the floor from that fifth floor that's just lying down at an angle in that wedge and that was your escape, when did you kind of come to grips with the fact or really understand the fact that the 31 people from Indiana University of Crane came within about 10 or 15 minutes of actually not making it out of their lives? 

>>JIM BUHER: I think the realization pretty much hit us all Wednesday morning. The embassy suites has a large atrium area where you congregate for breakfast. And when I came down for breakfast early Wednesday morning. It was dead - almost dead silence. And there were probably 10 or 15 people were already there. And they had the newspapers out spread out looking at. It was clear at that point that that's the first time. I think everyone really realized just how close they were to not being there and not getting out because earlier on, we just didn't know. You know we knew it was black. We knew what we went through but we didn't realize how close it was. And once we realized that that we actually had gone over that section, it was a very sobering thing thinking about, well, why did we get out. But others didn't? You know why did that floor stay up like it did, as long as it did because it probably shouldn't have? There was a real strong realization at that point that we were blessed, that we were the lucky ones because the ones that didn't there was a lot of people lost their lives. And there was the ones that I feel for. We made it out. Not sure why we did. But very very glad that we did do it. But I think that Wednesday morning was the first time we really sort of came to grips. And as you talk with people around the tables I think they all realized that they were within 15 minutes of not making out because, had that collapsed, the stairwell was gone as well. There was actually no other escape in our area. I mean that was - there was no other way out. But those two. Had they both been shut off, we would have - we would not made it out. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Have you been back to the Pentagon since? 

>>JIM BUHER: I was back one time. I have not been in the Pentagon since that day. Go back one time. Actually the next February the undersecretary of the Navy had been able to find the three people that got us out. And we had what we called a hero legend in February. Everyone from the class that was there and those three people from the Navy and their spouses were all there. And I didn't take a metro ride out and just stood around and looked at the Pentagon because you could see the hole was missing because they'd start cleaning up at that point but nothing had been done. One interesting thing was that we asked the people from the Navy, the three people, the commander, two captains. Why did you come to this floor? Because they were on the fourth floor. This was on the fifth floor after the remodeling. This is the first time that a classroom had been used - no one expects anyone to be in that quarter. And so we asked them, well why did you come to that quarter and start yelling? And to a man they all said we really don't know. We never talked about it. We just sort of looked at each other. All three of us walked up the floor to the fifth floor and walked to that quarter and started yelling We really don't have any answers to why we did it or anything. We just did it. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Well it's been 20 years ago now since then and I think about - I'm going to ask all three of you this question. I'll start with Daniel and go to Greg and then go to Jim. All three of you are, you know - it's 20 years. You have to look back on it. They're college students at IU. People that go to Daniel's restaurant people that are in the speech that were - you know they don't remember it. You know it's hard to believe but they don't you know they were one two maybe not even born yet. Dan I'm sure Greg you run into people that are in their teens and early 20s too. How can - I mean what would you say about them about the significance of that event and the significance of that day in terms of what they should know about it. Daniel. 

>>DANIEL ORR: Well I think that it really brought the country together in a lot of ways. You know I think people forgot politics for a little while and helped each other out. And you know we came together to to make everyone feel better. And I think that you know now we need to do that with whatever you know COVID and different - and that we're and - now we need to remember that that by that binding moment of 9/11 to share with the younger people. And so that we can come together we can work as a country and we're all gonna be better for it. And so that's what I would say to young people. I did for a long time we were told not to go down to the sites. And when we finally were allowed to get down I remember going and looking at the destruction. But I also remember the graffiti, the love, the thanks that was put on the walls and the construction barriers and everything. You saw so much passion so much love for not only the first responders and the people who died but a whole community that was affected. And I didn't go back for a long time. I moved to Anguila. I really got to a point where I needed to get out of Manhattan. So I went down to Anguila with Cuisinart company. And when I went back to New York and just probably three years ago and saw the sights and the way they've rebuilt it I think it really honors what happened there. It's a beautiful and very elegant remembrance of this. The state that we're celebrating tomorrow. And I would suggest that young people go out there and visit that because it is uplifting and there can be no life after such tragedy happens. And I think that everyone should try to get out there here. If you're in New York try to get down there and visit that sites and there's so much to do in that area. So I think that's a good way for people to remember if they're in the area. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thanks Daniel. Greg Gates. 

>>GREG GATES: I too would like to comment about the graffiti. Initially the graffiti had a tremendous amount of hate along with the praise for the country and the identifying of the murderous thugs that did this horrible thing. And then as time went on, there was more things written that for no other term to use what Dan said love. And I think one of the greatest things I was able to take from this whole thing was that early on when civilians were assisting public safety on the pile, there were people of the same nationality, the same race, the same religion helping those people working the pile. And I think knowing that this terrible thing was not done by a race of people, by a country, by a religious group, but just it was done by murderous thugs that we should keep in mind that people are different and that we should still respect, love those that are different than us and perhaps have a different opinion. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thanks Greg. And Jim Buher you got about 30 seconds to wrap up. Well what would you like these students at SPEA now to know about this. 

>>JIM BUHER: One of the things I - you vision the significance of it. I gave quite a few presentations. I got one Wednesday and I got one Sunday coming up. The first thing I asked is, where were you when you first heard about Pearl Harbor being bombed? Since there's older people that do. Where were you when you first heard that President Kennedy was shot? And the third one is where were you when the World Trade Center was hit? To me those three things in recent history are the only three things that I know of that are so significant to our culture that everyone that was alive, they knew exactly where they were when they first heard that. So it's very important for history. I really like what Dan said about the use of different people. I think it did pull the country together for a while. It showed the politics were pushed to the back. Unfortunately didn't last very long but it lasted for a while, but just the resilience of the United States and what we can do if we work together. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thank you very much. I want to thank our three guests today, Jim Buher, Greg Gates and Daniel Orr for a co-host Sarah Wittmeyer our producers Holden Absheer and Bente Boutier and engineer John Daly. I'm Bob Zaltsberg.

9/11 Tribute In Light


Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.   

This month marks 20 years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which killed almost 3,000 Americans. An additional 6,000 were injured. 

The events are the deadliest terrorist attack in history and destroyed more than $10 billion in property and infrastructure. 

On that day, 19 Islamic extremists associated with Al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airlines and carried out suicide attacks against the U.S.    

Two of the planes flew into the World Trade Center towers in New York City around 9 a.m., and the third flew into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. at 9:45 a.m. The fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Penn. after passengers attempted to retake control from the terrorists.    

Following the attacks, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror,” which ultimately led to 20-years of increased U.S. military presence in countries such as Afghanistan. 

This week on Noon Edition, we're talking with three individuals about their personal experiences at Ground Zero and in the Pentagon on 9/11.  

You can follow us on Twitter@NoonEditionor send us questions for the show   

Note-This week, our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection.    


Jim Buher,  past director of administrative services, IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (formerly SPEA). Buher was in the Pentagon on 9/11 with a group of Crane Naval Base employees as part of public management certificate coursework. 

Greg Gates, deputy fire marshal, Lawrence Fire Department. Gates deployed to Ground Zero in New York as a member of Indiana Task Force One.  

Daniel Orr, chef/owner, FARMbloomington. Orr was living and working in New York City on 9/11.  

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