9-11 and Texarkana USA
Everyone talks about what a beautiful morning it was on September 11, 2001, before all hell broke loose in NYC. I was asleep when the phone rang, it was Benson “Fish” Anable. He worked on the Eagle then from 10am to 3pm weekdays. He said “Wake your ass up and turn on the TV, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!”. I fumbled for the remote and turned on NBC just in time to see the second plane hit the South Tower.
I was SHOCKED! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Just UNREAL! I asked where he was, and he said he was still at home, and my first thought was, “Crap… Johnboy and Billy are probably laughing about something else, because of time delay, and this is important! I raced to the radio stations, Benson got here about the same time, and we took over the air. I remember being told, “You can’t say that”, about something I said on the radio that morning. I said, “Do not mistake this for an accident, this is an obvious attack on the United States of America”. I wasn’t sorry that I said that then, and I am not sorry now. Benson and I could only do so much, and JW was running up and down the hall doing reports on all of the stations in the building.
I hate to admit this, but at the time we had no way of going wall to wall news coverage on the Eagle. So, Fish and I busted open a television speaker, and wired it into the Eagle control board, and we put CNN on the air! That has since been remedied, and if there were ever another emergency that big, we have lots of information sources now, that just weren’t available to us back then. (Thanks CNN)
It was later in that evening that we all started kicking around the idea of gathering rescue, and relief supplies here in town to send to New York City. We contacted Tri-State Trucking and they offered a truck, and said they would ask their drivers for a volunteer. We contacted sources with the United States Air Force to work out delivery logistics to deliver the truck to the right location that would really help, and contacted Mark Brine at Orr Chevrolet for a location to collect supplies. Once we had our plan in place we put the word out on all of our local radio stations, Eagle 106-3, Kicker 102.5, Power 95-9, and Mix 93-3… the response was HUGE!
The people came, and they came in herds, and remember, this was before Facebook, the Twitter and all of that. People came from Texarkana, Hope, New Boston, Ashdown, Atlanta, from all around the area, and from as far away as Shreveport to donate. People were bringing bottled water, shovels, buckets, hard-hats, gloves, dog-food. I can’t help but to tear-up a little bit right now thinking about the turn out of people I saw on the afternoon of September 12th. I saw one man bring a pick-up load of Redwing work boots, at least 3 dozen pair. One paper mill would send over a load of hardhats and work gloves, and the other paper mill would send over one to match. Cooper Tire sent safety gear, and breathing protectors. I couldn’t possibly list all of the area companies that pitched in to help, but remember them all. There were children that came to donate, and their were old people that turned out to help. There were those that donated what they could, then stayed to help load the truck, or feed the volunteers that had been loading the truck.
What we thought would take 2 to 3 days, didn’t. That truck was loaded and ready to roll at noon on September 13th. With every single item listed for security purposes… we couldn’t put down “100 pair of work boots”, we had to list every item individually, “1 pair of work-boots” 100 times, with all sorts of information about who donated it, but remember… it was all about security, and we were happy to do it. And even though someone donating a few pair of socks, would have to provide name, Address, SS#, etc… not one single person complained, and were happy to do it.
That’s when we met Roger Lavender. Roger was our volunteer driver from Tri-State Trucking, and I don’t think there was a man, or beast that could have kept Roger from driving that truck to New York City. Roger was a giant of a man, with an even bigger heart, and he made some of the best peanut brittle I have ever eaten. Roger died about a year ago, and even to his last day, taking those supplies to NYC, to help at ground zero in any way, was one of the things in his life he was most proud of. We are proud of him, and miss him.
Benson volunteered to go for the radio station, so off they went. Roger and Fish were going to New York City, and they were determined that nothing was going to stop them. They left out of Texarkana with a Highway Patrol escort, (usually if the cop-car lights are on, Fish is not behind them). The escort took them on thru the state of Arkansas, and on their way.
We heard from them a few times along the way. To check in, and let us know what was going on. Once they called to tell me about a sign in Kentucky bragging about “The World’s Biggest Sheep Farm”… located right next to “The World’s Biggest Porn Store”, and they did call another time to tell me “there ain’t a damn thing in Ohio”… and they drove.
Roger and Fish drove to Newark, NJ. to a secret and secure staging area set up by the US Military near Newark airport where they would unload the truck, go thru all of our required paperwork, then reload the supplies onto military trucks for delivery to Ground Zero. When our guys got to the base, they were the second truck in line, the first truck came from Florida, and the crew on duty at this makeshift base across from ground zero were most impressed that the second truck came all of the way from Texas, and was only a few minutes behind the first truck. When our boys left the secure location, they could see what looked like 15 to 20 trucks lined up, and loaded with supplies donated by Americans from all over the country to help, and they saw the military trucks carrying all of the equipment they just unloaded, all of the supplies that our area people had donated to support those rescuers working themselves to death digging, and searching for any hopes of life at ground-zero. The materials they delivered went to work. Our guys headed home.
After they left the base, they stopped at a Walmart in Newark to get some road supplies for the trip home, when the manager of the store noticed our sign on the side of the truck, and the whole store came out to meet the guys. They gave them all of the munchies and drinks they could carry, and gave them a new American Flag for the truck to replace the wind battered flag they flew on the way up there.
I am so proud, not only of Roger and Benson, but every single person that came out and donated goods, or time and energy to send our support to the victims of that day. Never have I been more proud to be from Texarkana USA.
I truly hate that our pictures from loading that truck have been lost… computer crashes, personnel changes, etc… but I did find a few that Benson took on the road…
(Now I know that since that day, the US has tracked Osama down, and killed him, but I still don’t feel the satisfaction that comes with justice…I don’t think those people, or the ones that loved them have “justice”. I still ache for those that lost their lives that day, and I don’t think I will ever be satisfied that justice is served, not until I can gnaw on Bin Laden’s skull with my very own teeth, and even then, I am pretty sure I will never completely understand why any of it ever had to happen at all.)