KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sept. 11, 2001 forever changed the U.S. when four passenger aircrafts were hijacked by al-Qaeda members and crashed into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
The images of planes crashing into buildings, of smoke and fire, are etched into the memories of those who were alive that day. Most people remember where they were when they heard about the attacks.
“I had gone down to Quantico for training, and it was the first time I'd ever been back to Quantico for training, after graduating, and it was a training that I had fought hard to get into, and really wanted to be at,” retired FBI agent Shelley Doherty said. “They came in the classroom and said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.”
Doherty graduated from Quantico, the FBI Academy in Virginia, in 1997 and was assigned to the New York City bureau office.
After she heard the news, Doherty wanted to head back up to New York, but then the two other planes crashed, one in Pennsylvania and the other into the Pentagon, preventing her from leaving Virginia immediately.
When she was finally able to get to New York, she drove up an empty Interstate 95 and saw a New York City skyline she didn’t recognize.
“There's a place in New York when you come across the bridge, and the thing you do is you always look for the trade centers, like ‘I'm home, where's the trade center?’” Doherty said. “I just saw, like, a bright light and smoke.”
The next morning, the FBI agent was at “ground zero,” the term which came to be used for the collapsed debris of the former World Trade Center towers.
Nearly 3,000 people died because of the attacks. Of those, 400 were New York police and firefighters who risked their lives to help save those in the World Trade Center. Doherty said she lost two of her colleagues in the buildings’ collapses.
Even in the years after the attacks, ground zero workers are still experiencing negative health impacts from working in the debris of the fallen buildings because of the environmental hazards. Doherty has a scar on her eye and a little asthma 20 years later because of the debris.
In the first episode of KSHB 41 News’ five-part podcast mini-series on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, digital producers Katharine Finnerty and Casey Murray will go back to that day. The episode features archived KSHB 41 footage from the week of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as first-hand accounts from Doherty, the family of a victim of 9/11 and a cameraman who was there on that day.
DISCLAIMER: This episode features graphic information and sounds from the attacks that may be disturbing to some people. Listener discretion is advised.
EPISODE 2: Sept. 11, the war and its impact on service members
EPISODE 3: The impact of 9/11 on the Islamic community, educators
EPISODE 4: What 9/11 changed and how Kansas City remembers
EPISODE 5: Reporting on traumatic events like 9/11