West Point remembers 9/11

 An artwork of David O. Malone's that depicts the New York skyline as a tribute to the destruction of the Twin Towers Sept. 11, 2001, hangs in the Bryan Public Library in the office of Tombigbee Regional Library System Director, Tanna Taylor.
Mary Rumore and Donna Summerall
Staff Writer

Linda Malone is the widow of the late artist David O. Malone, who painted his impression of the New York skyline. He had intended to create an artistic tribute with a series of paintings. Malone was killed in a car crash Oct. 28, 2011, and never completed the series of paintings.

"David worked in New York a lot and was very familiar with Manhattan and the World Trade Center," Malone said. "Like everyone, he was devastated by the destruction of the Twin Towers by Islamic terrorists."

Malone said her husband seemed to be haunted by what had happened and began creating paintings of the skyline with the World Trace Center still standing.
"He painted so many pictures," Malone said. "It seemed like he was working through his grief. He had planned to start on another angle and then paint more without the towers. He never got around to working on the second or third series."

Many people have purchased the paintings after his death. The paintings hang in many homes and offices in West Point. Malone said even though the subject of the paintings are the same, and are all similar, no two are alike.

"He used different colors or shading for each one," Malone said. "Some are more blue, others contain oranges and reds like a sunset. There is one he painted where the main color is yellow. Under the right lighting I think that one is the most beautiful. There is one where it looks like it is raining and makes you think of the sadness of the families losing their loved ones. He brought something different to each one."

Malone said she was librarian at Central School when the World Trade Center was attacked.

"Each classroom and the library had a TV," Malone said. "I had the news on in the library and the classrooms could tune in, as well. That was a scary feeling like a bombing. Nothing like that had happened since the Kennedy assassination."

She said that was the only thing she could compare it to, as they were both events that made the entire country stand still.

West Point Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne said he was sitting at the kitchen bar at Fire Station 1 having a meeting with the hazmat team on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The weather that day was much like it was today (Thursday),” Wilbourne said. “It was cool and a cobalt blue sky. It’s kind of strange.”

Wilbourne, who was the battalion chief at the time, said he watched the attack happen on live television.

“The second plane went in, and I knew it was deliberate,” Ken said.

Wilbourne said his first cousin was in Tower One when the plane crashed into the building.

“I had a first cousin in Tower One, and I wondered what happened to him,” he said. “Luckily, I was able to hear from him the next day. He had just gotten to work and was in the bookstore on the first floor.”

Wilbourne said he was afraid for the firefighters who were trying to rescue others that day.

“Watching it on TV, I thought there would have been many more killed than were,” he said.

Wilbourne said many things changed in the department after 9/11.

“We kept the bay doors locked where the firetrucks are kept,” he said. “There were rumors of firetrucks getting hijacked. There were so many rumors. There has also been more training of what to do with weapons of mass destruction, bombs and terrorist attacks - a whole lot more.”

Priscilla Ivy is the reference librarian at the Bryan Public Library. At the time of the attacks, she was living in Plano, Texas, working for Electronic Data Systems.

"My work had brought me to Mississippi," Ivy said. "I was headed north on Highway 45, when I got a 911 alert from my supervisor. I was told to report back to Jackson, the closest home base for the company. They were trying to locate everyone. Some employees had been working in the U.K. and were flying back to the U.S. Our employer wanted to be sure none of our people were on one of those four planes."

Ivy said the scary part was seeing all the long lines at the gas stations. People were filling their cars and gas cans to be sure in case of an emergency they had plenty of gas. It was like since that had happened, something terrible could happen anytime, anywhere.

"It was like someone had broken into our country and stolen our safety and security," Ivy said. "My child was still in Texas and EDS allowed us to go home as soon as they had located everyone. We were grounded for three days. There were no planes flying. We were able to go back to work as soon as EDS made sure all of its employees were safe."

She said everyone was fearful, with no idea what might be the next target. It took a long time for things to return to normal.

"It has always made me sad to think of all the people who died that day," Ivy said. "There was nothing left of most of them to identify. I wonder if their families still hold onto a little hope that maybe they escaped. Still waiting and hoping they might walk in the door someday. The not knowing, of not having a positive identification of their loved ones, even after 16 years, must be horrible."

North Mississippi Mississippi Center Wellness Center Director of Wellness Tracy Arnett said she was hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon with a group of friends a few days prior to 9/11, and while they were hiking out they met a group of men hiking in who were tugboat drivers around the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

“Later on when I found out what had happened I thought, ‘Those guys’ friends are dying and they won’t find out about it until they come out of the canyon days from now,’” Arnett said.

Arnett said she and her friends arrived at a hotel on Sept. 10 and planned to fly out of the airport in Albuquerque the next morning.

“While we were checking out of the hotel, the planes hit,” Arnett said. “I told my friends there was no way we would be able to fly home, so we immediately went to the airport and got the last rental car available in the Albuquerque airport.”

Arnett said the drive home took 20 hours, and they listened to the news on the radio the whole way home.

“We drove all night long and didn’t stop because the world was just in chaos,” she said. “I just wanted to get home because an event like that is so otherworldly, but I wasn’t even in my own home to experience it. I just needed to get back to something familiar.”

Arnett said she remembers immediately knowing 9/11 would be a world-changing event.

“I remember telling my friends, ‘The world will never be the same again after this,’ and I’m surprised it didn’t change more dramatically than it did,” she said. “I don’t know what I was expecting - I guess more of a terrorist state.”

Arnett said today she is joining her husband, who is a firefighter with the Starkville Fire Department, in running and walking 110 flights of stairs, the height of the World Trade Centers, at Davis Wade Stadium to commemorate the firefighters who lost their lives on that tragic day while rescuing others.