Anyone old enough to be able to remember can recall where they were and what they felt when
they first heard of the terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
Below are the remembrances of several Raritan residents. It includes a variety of people, a new mom who was at home with her baby,
a JFK elementary school teacher, a college student living on campus, a computer technician who was on the road,
a kids play facility owner, and a young girl who remembers from the perspective of an 8 year old.
Stefanie Gara, a new mom at the time, was at home with her 9 month old son. The T.V. was on and her son was crawling toward his bin of toys. She caught a glance of the television and noticed one of the World Trade Center buildings was smoking. A plane had hit it they said, but no one was sure of the size or how it happened.

She called her husband Mark to tell him about the crash. While she was talking to him, she watched a second plane hit the other World Trade Tower. She screamed and started to cry to her husband “I think we are under attack.” Her husband, who was not watching the images that Stefanie was, heard her clearly but was in a very different mode as he had not seen the horrific images. It was very unbelievable to him. Stefanie then sat glued to the T.V. She was in disbelief as she heard additional planes had hit in Washington and crashed in Pennsylvania. An hour later, she and her young son watched the first tower collapse. She held her son very tight and cried.

Today Stefanie is a councilwoman in Raritan.
Computer technician Greg Lobell was at a customer site to repair their computer. He heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. They gave no other information, but it did not seem right to him. It was a beautiful clear day. When he left the customer’s business a stranger outside came up to him and told him that multiple planes had hit the World Trade Center. He went to his car and put on the news. It seemed so unbelievable.

He recalled going home and being glued to his T.V. He anxiously awaited the return of his 6 year old daughter from JFK School that day. He had called his wife and found that she was at IKEA in Elizabeth. She told him that they could see the smoke from where they were. Later that day, he remembers a strange feeling when he looked in the sky and did not see a single plane. All aircraft were grounded after the events of the day. Later in the week, Greg recalls attending a special mass at St. Ann’s Church for the 9-11 victims. Another memory from that week was the heartbreaking posting wall in NYC which said “Have you seen …”

Today Greg Lobell serves on the Raritan Borough Council.
College student Anthony Soriano was living at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Virginia. Early that morning a friend had called to tell him that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. He put on the television and quickly witnessed a second plane hit. Soon the news reported that a third plane had hit the Pentagon.

A good percentage of his school was from the Washington D.C. and New York area. Many had concerns for family and friends. They all were trying to call home to check on their loved ones, but the phones lines had been pushed beyond their capacity and most calls could not get through. An eerie feeling came over Anthony and many of his fellow students as the tragedy unfolded. What do they do now? Do they just go on with their usual day? The college would keep its early classes scheduled, but eventually cancelled the afternoon classes.

Today Anthony Soriano, now 30 years old, serves on the Raritan Borough Council.
Jo-Ann Liptak was teaching 3rd grade at the JFK School. The Principal made an announcement over the PA system that they would not be having outside play after lunch because of a situation occurring in New York. Her colleague across the hall came over to tell her that a plane had hit the WTC. Her first thought was that it was a small private plane so she was not overly concerned. Her class was scheduled for Physical Education at 10 AM so she walked them to the gym and went into the gym office where she saw Mr. Galida had a small TV. By that time one of the towers had fallen and she watched in disbelief as the second tower fell. She felt it was surreal and incomprehensible that so many people would perish on that peaceful sunny September morning. Many parents came to the school to get their children and take them home. No one knew what would happen. They soon learned of the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. Her nephew was working in the Pentagon so she called his father to see if he had any word about his son. It was a very stressful time because many rumors were circulating and no one knew what was going to happen next. They heard that all regular air traffic was grounded. However, shortly after they heard this, a jet fighter flew over the school low enough to rattle the windows.

Her class was soon returning from Physical Education and she knew that she needed to relax and appear calm and in control when they came back to the classroom. Children are mirrors of their teacher’s demeanor and she knew she needed to be focused. All the kids were very excited when they came back into the classroom asking many questions. She discussed what was happening in New York and answered their questions as best she could without adding to their angst. The remainder of the day was conducted as if it were a normal school day but she knew that on this day that the United States had been changed forever.

Today Jo-Ann Liptak is the mayor of Raritan. The children in that 3rd grade class have just graduated from high school.
Megan Doorly (this author’s daughter) was in the 3rd grade at JFK School. (She was not in Jo-Ann Liptak’s class) She recalled how unusual it was that so many of her classmates were being picked up by their parents. To explain the situation, her teacher choose to tell the kids only that something bad had happened and when they got home their parents would tell them about it. Initially, she felt a little worried, but as the day wore on and her class continued to dwindle in size she became more anxious.

When the final bell rang, she headed for the school bus hoping to find some comfort in talking with her best friend who always sat next to her on the bus. However, her friend, who had been on the bus that morning, was not there. For the first time Megan got really scared. What terrible thing had happened? When she arrived home her dad (this author) explained what had happened. She could not understand the mindset of a terrorist (what 8 year old would) as she could not grasp why someone flying a plane (even a bad guy) would not swerve around a building when they saw it in front of them.

Megan Doorly graduated from Bridgewater / Raritan High School in June 2011 and is now attending Rutgers.
Bruce Doorly (your author) was operating his business, a kids play facility called Shake Rattle & Romp which was located in Raritan. On September 11 we had Parent-Toddler play classes scheduled. Mom would bring her toddler for some open play followed by a group circle where all participated. That morning I arrived in the parking lot a couple minutes before 9AM. Just as I was turning off the car, the disc jockey on the radio said to turn on your TV as something interesting has happened at The World Trade Center. Since I was running late, I turned the car off and headed in to open the place for our classes that were to start at 9 AM. At around 10 AM with many toddlers and moms playing during open play, I poked my head outside the front door, where I saw my friend Bob, the owner of FASTSIGNS (another business in the shopping center). He asked me if I had heard the news. I said no. He then informed me that both World Trade Center Towers had been hit by planes and that one tower had collapsed. Shocked, I responded, “That means that thousands of people are dead.” He looked at me realizing that I was just beginning to grasp the seriousness of the situation and clarified it for me saying,” This is major, the country is under attack.”

Returning to the Parent-Toddler class the moms were beginning to talk about the day’s events. Some late comers told of the most recent updates that they had heard on the radio. The initial consensus of the moms that day was that there was no need to overreact and head home as the kids were having fun. But soon the phone at Shake Rattle and Romp was ringing with panicked husbands looking for their wives to tell them that it was best for them to return home immediately. While today the details of the terrorist attack are known, at that time no one knew what was going to happen next. One dad told his wife that a plane had crashed in Somerset County. We would later learn it was Somerset County in Pennsylvania, but at the time we thought it was New Jersey. So the calls from the husbands made us all realize that this was indeed a serious situation and everyone went home. Shake Rattle & Romp then closed for the day.

I decided to immediately pick up my youngest daughter from daycare. At first, I felt silly doing this, what was the real need to pick her up early? However, upon my arrival at the daycare, I saw many other parents arriving and noticed that many of the kids had already been picked up. I went home and was fixated on the news reports for the rest of the day.

The business Shake Rattle & Romp closed in December of 2002.
Today Bruce Doorly is an Internet Programmer for local websites and a writer for The Breeze.
The Candle Lighting Vigil - September 23rd, 2001
Twelve days later on Sunday, September 23rd,
a candle lighting vigil for the victims of the attack was held
on the lawn of the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville.

Over 3000 local residents attended the event.
Jennifer Doorly, age 4, at the Candle Lighting Vigil
The event started in the daylight at 6:30 PM.
There were several speakers at the event.
One was former New Jersey governor Christy Whitman
who was then the head of
The Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C.
She told the crowd “They may have struck a blow,
they have hurt us, but we will win the war.”
The event organizers invited some local students to speak,
one was Allison O’Brien who was a freshman at The Somerset County Vo-Tech.

She said “Instead of pulling us apart, we pulled together.
We will show the world how strong we are.”
As the daylight turned to darkness candles
were passed out and each person lit their candle.

It was a moving site as thousands
of candles lit up the night.