The events of Sept. 11, 2001, touched every part of America, and Preston County was no exception.
Preston County Administrator Kathy Mace was then a county commissioner at home when she got a call to turn on the TV. She went to work and everyone was concerned and full of questions about what to do. Everyone ended up staying at the office but Mace said the one word she would use to describe the day was scary.
Commissioner Dave Price was on his way home from vacation with his wife at North Myrtle Beach and not too far outside Washington, D.C., when he heard the news over the radio on WTOP.
“And we listened to that for a long time, wishing that we could see it. But we’re driving. And we couldn’t see any TV coverage of it,” Price said. “So as soon as we got back close to home or to home, first thing we did was turn on the TV and start watching. But that was hours after it had happened.”
As he was driving, Price thought about how he wasn’t too far from Washington and that they, “better get the heck out of Dodge.”
Commissioner Samantha Stone was a nanny at the time. She remembers a lot of uncertainty. She was responsible for other people, and she saw things on TV that felt like what she learned about as a child.
“And for one time, in my lifetime, we were, I don’t know what quite the right word is, other than we were very vulnerable to, you know, just a lot of bad things,” Stone said. “It was scary.”
But while so many, including Preston County Schools Superintendent Stephen Wotring, remember the day clearly, for students today it’s just something in the history books.
“I can just vividly play it out in my mind,” Wotring said. “For these kids it’s something that they read about in a history book. And it’s not as real and relevant to them. And so I think one of the challenges we have is to keep that history alive and not let it be just the page in a history book.
“But how it was truly a turning point in our country and how it changed so much about how we operate, Wotring said, adding he doesn’t want anyone to forget about those changes and wants to make sure the next generation learns the enormity of the attacks.
“We just need to make sure that we are able to bring that to children in a way that is not sensationalized, but that the impact is able to be truly felt,” he said.
Wotring, then principal at Bruceton School, decided to try to make things as normal as possible for the kids — not making an announcement or canceling school. Students whose concerned parents came to get them were released.
“And it was just one of those days where you just kind of felt like you were spinning,” Wotring said. “And you just had zero control of what was going on in the world at that moment, or, or even in the school at the moment really, and just kind of scratching your head wondering what in the world is happening.”
Preston County Circuit Court Judge Steven Shaffer was in law school at WVU College of Law when he heard, about the planes hitting the towers.
“I guess when the first one hit, you kind of thought it was just, you know, some kind of mechanical problems,” Shaffer said. “And then as things escalated throughout the day, then, you know, was thankful that I live in America, and I knew that we were going to be OK.”
Shaffer said his heart goes out to all the individuals and their families who were killed and injured that day and for the emotional damage the attack caused so many Americans.