It was a bright and comfy Tuesday morning in Jamestown. An early trip to Mathison’s was top of the list that day because Jamestown College drawing students needed some special art supplies. In the old Silverado, the Prairie Public Radio station was on. Hearing what sounded like a mystery or science fiction book review just wasn’t on the agenda that day. I mean school was fully started and everything needed to get finished in time to give the kids a schedule and make sure they had their ebony pencils, drawing paper, pastels and spray fixative. This was the first semester in the new Reiland Fine Arts Center and everything needed to be “just right.”

Scanning the channels, I kept getting the same broadcast. I thought the radio was on the blink. So I switched back to NPR, hoping for some music … but the same story, something about New York. It suddenly got serious. By the time I reached Valley City, the announcer said a plane hit one of the towers in New York City. I needed to pull over, so went to a store downtown.

“We’ve been attacked,” the clerk said, as she turned the volume up on her radio. “A second plane just bombed the second tower,” she said.

I left, determined to get the needed art supplies. But when I arrived there, Mathison’s was closed. A hand-written “closed” sign was attached to the door. I drove to the mall, and the mall was closed. Fargo shut its doors. I had to drive home without supplies. Listening to the broadcast driving back, I realized nothing would ever be the same. The United States would be at war.

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Once home, I loaded an entirely different set of art supplies: white fabric to make banners for 30 students, acrylic paint and brushes, and every small container I could find for holding paint. Wednesday’s drawing class was about to get a civics/history lesson and start their “drawing 111” class by painting what 9-11 meant to them.

One drawing student told me he was going to join the Reserves. Another said she had a brother who called her and said he was getting ready for deployment. There were a dad and siblings awaiting orders. The whole classroom was sharing their personal family histories: of wars and soldiers, of deaths, ribbons and heroism. Wednesday, September 12, of 2001, was the day our whole world set out on a track to stop this tragedy from ever happening again.

Within a few years, we’d lose two 21-year-old Jamestown “kids.” The JC student who was in that 2001 drawing class was one.

Saturday will be a day of remembrance; 20 years for the city of New York, for the Pentagon and for families of United Air’s Flight 93 passengers who bravely diverted that fourth plane to a field in Pennsylvania.

Twenty years have passed and it is just as painful today as it was then. We can never forget what horror terrorism leaves for those who live to remember.



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