AVERY COUNTY — Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center 18 years ago on Sept. 11. The incident would become known as the single largest terrorist attack on American soil in the country’s history.
The attacks killed nearly 3,000, injured more than 6,000, caused serious health consequences for others and stunned the entire country.
Avery County is hundreds of miles from New York City, but everyone was affected by the attacks.
“We were upstairs at the courthouse annex, probably where Avery Communications is right now, working in the tax office that morning,” County Manager Philip Barrier said.
Barrier was the county tax administrator at that point. He said the communications director at the time came to the tax office and said there had been a terrible plane crash in New York City.
“A couple of us gathered around and looked at the TV for a few minutes, and that’s when we realized that the second tower had been hit,” Barrier said. “It just gave you a feeling of uncertainty and fear, and a lot of prayers went up. You kind of didn’t know what to do for the rest of the day. We were just kind of all numb.”
Barrier said in the aftermath the same day it felt strange working when it seemed like you should be doing something for someone else, and there was a loss of purpose. He told his staff if anyone wanted to go home they should. That night, there were prayer vigils at flagpoles and places of worship across the area.
Barrier said in the days following there was a sense of patriotism and love for the country, that unimportant things fell to the wayside.
“I was in a teachers meeting,” Avery Middle School social studies teacher Mark Guinn said.
A call came in from the office saying to turn the TV on.
“Right when I turned the TV on, the second plane hit,” Guinn said.
His students were in Encore classes at the time, and were only a few minutes from returning to the regular classes.
“Here’s a teachable moment, but what do I even say?” Guinn said.
Guinn told his students a historic moment just happened. He left the TV in the classroom turned on for the students for a few minutes. The students had many questions.
“Nobody really understood what was going on at first,” Guinn said, adding the students were afraid and eerily quiet. Many students were signed out and went home that day. One student’s aunt was a flight attendant on Flight 93.
At the time, Guinn’s family was having the grade work finished on the yard of their new home they had yet to move into. When he got home that day, in an area where there is normally air traffic, it was eerily quiet. All flights were grounded in the aftermath.
“It was a beautiful day,” Guinn said. “Normally you’re going to see planes go through.”
His wife wondered if they would be able to move into their new house, wondering about the potential scale of a war and what implications the attacks would have for the country.
Guinn said the students were friendlier to each other in the aftermath and everyone at the school was more concerned with others.
“The good in people really did come out during that time,” Guinn said, adding sometimes we go day-to-day without realizing what a wonderful place we live in.