TOPEKA (KSNT) – It’s been 20 years since the planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, leaving nearly 3,000 people dead, and thousands injured.
But many people came to the rescue to do everything they could to help win the aftermath. In fact, two women living right here in Northeast Kansas share what the day was like being directly in the midst of the tragedy.
It’s a sight many of us were not expecting to see, the iconic Twin Towers attacked, leaving a plume of smoke, debris and so many questions.
“Overwhelmed and overcome. Horrific and anger at who could have done this to us, and why?”
Dorelaine Bushong and Karen Romay still have unanswered questions today as they reflect on what happened 20 years ago, especially since they were there.
“It began when I turned on the TV and saw what had happened to the Twin Towers,” Romay said. “And…not knowing..well to believe it or not.”
Bushong and Romay worked together in 2001 as flight attendants for Sierra Pacific Airlines. It was a charter airline and at times worked with the Bureau of Land Management. This time, they were on a mission to help clean up after 9/11. The task started with a call from their supervisor asking if they would like to help transport FEMA personnel across the country to Manhattan.
“We are going to go to the attack site,” Bushong recalls about the conversation she had with her supervisor after hearing about the attacks. “If you care to, you may. It is going to be dangerous. I said I would be honored to be included. She said great, call your troop together and that’s how that morning began.”
Bushong was 69 years old at the time, and Romay was 44. Age didn’t stop them from doing what was needed of them to help clean up and rescue after the damage that could never be forgotten, especially the things they saw when they landed a day later.
“Well, you could see it when we flew in, definitely,” Romay said. “A lot of smoke. A lot of smoke.”
“When the aircraft doors opened, Karen said ‘you can smell the death,'” Bushong said. “It was that poignant. All around us.”
20 years later, Bushong and Romay still reflect on the tragedy they saw firsthand, a memory that will never fade for them. But, also an opportunity they are grateful to be a part of.
“Karen said, ‘I feel privileged to do what we did'” Bushong said. “When you think about it, it was such an abstract. The people in it, compared to our little offering and what they all went through. It was a once in a lifetime event, thanks to God.”
A year after Bushong was in Manhattan, she wrote an op-ed to the Mohave Valley News in remembrance of 9/11, sharing everything that happened and what she saw.
Bushong and Romay went separate ways after leaving Sierra Pacific Airlines. Just recently, the two coincidentally reconnected in Kansas, thanks to Bushong’s daughter finding Romay on Facebook.