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10 years later: Former area residents talk about how 9/11 changed their lives

September 12, 2011

Katie Benedict Friedman holds sons Isaac, Elijah, and Nathan in downtown Plymouth.

PLYMOUTH — Three young boys, full of life, will always remind Katie Benedict Friedman of the events of 9/11.
Katie (Culver Community High School 1991 grad) and her husband, Seth, decided to start a family soon after the World Trade Centers toppled a few short miles from their place of work in downtown New York City.
“I really think that it had to do with the attacks,” said Katie, observing the antics of her three sons, Nathan, 8, Isaac, 6, and Elijah, 4. “Life is short.”
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Katie had just arrived to her job as an investment banker. Her building was on top of Grand Central Station, and Seth worked at a law firm about 13 blocks away.
Katie remembers being on the phone with a banker in the World Trade Center a few minutes before 9 a.m. When the plane hit the building, the phone “just went dead,” said Katie.
Katie and her coworkers turned to the televisions in their office for answers, but at that time, no one really knew what was happening.
“We didn’t know it was a terrorist attack yet,” said Katie. “You just felt like a sitting duck. It was just surreal.”
Seth walked over to Katie’s building, and she said that they walked to their home on the Upper West Side along with many others who were leaving the downtown area.
“Everybody just walked very calmly and quietly,” said Katie, adding that there was no mass hysteria.
Although reports on television had informed the public that the events were likely a terrorist attack, Katie said that she thinks most people at that time had probably never heard the name Osama bin Laden.
“The whole city was on fire,” said Katie somberly. “You would look south and the whole thing was on fire.”
Seth and Katie observed people trying to get rides out of the city, but Katie said that it was basically impossible to leave. The couple didn’t even try—once home, they joined the rest of the nation in turning on their television and remaining glued to it for the next several days.
Katie described how just that morning, while getting ready for work, she and Seth had discussed their plans for that evening.
“That afternoon, all bets were off,” said Katie. “Everything changed. It was like, wow. We are vulnerable. And I’ve never felt that way before.”
Seth and Katie did return to work the next week, but nothing was the same. Katie said that numerous bomb threats and building evacuations in her building kept her on pins and needles, wondering what would happen next. She describes feeling depressed and struggling to go to work each day.
“It was hard to get out of bed,” said Katie. “It was really, really hard.”
Just about a year after the attacks, the Friedmans moved to Larchmont, about 15 miles north of the city, where they live today. Nathan, their first child, was born about a month later.
Katie said that many of her friends also had “9/11 babies.” One of Nathan’s friends was born on September 11, 2002.
“It wasn’t just me feeling that way,” said Katie. “Now it’s like, well, okay, good things can happen on 9/11.”
Katie said that she is not afraid to go to the city anymore, although she added that Seth got over his fear much quicker than she did as he still goes to the city every day for work.
“I love New York City—my husband and I both do,” said Katie. Now, she brings her family to the city to visit their dad for lunch. The boys love the train, she added.
The Friedmans also enjoy “a lot of Yankee games,” Chinatown, the zoo, and Central Park.
Katie said that she watches family members read the names of those that died at Ground Zero each year.
When the 9/11 memorial exhibit opens, Katie plans to go—but is not sure if she will bring her sons along.
“It’s hard to understand evil like that, and I don’t want them to,” said Katie.
Katie did not know anyone personally who died on that day, but she feels their loss just the same.
“It’s a heartbreak, and that will never change,” said Katie seriously.

Bret Shockney

Bret Shockney, (PHS grad of 1989) a Navy pilot, was in Washington state when he received a call from a friend on the East Coast to turn on the news.
Shockney watched coverage of the attacks with horror and wondered what his involvement as a pilot would be in the coming weeks.
His first concern, however, was for his sister, Heather Shockney.
“Immediately I was very concerned because my sister at the time worked at the Pentagon,” said Shockney.
Heather contacted him only a few hours later, saying that she was fine. With his sister out of danger, Shockney’s next thought was to report to his commanding officers.
“As soon as I got confirmation that Heather was okay, I went right in,” said Shockney, adding that he lived only three miles from the base.
He said that everyone in his squadron was thinking about how soon they would be ordered to go overseas.
“I think we were all in agreement—we wanted to go take care of business,” said Shockney, adding “We weren’t really sure what we were up against—the enemy was undetermined.”
Shockney said that because of his knowledge of the Middle East, he figured that the conflict between Middle Eastern countries and the U.S. would be going on for a while.
“I’m not at all surprised that it’s still going on,” said Shockney.
Shockney, now a Navy Reserve pilot, was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan four times in the last four years, and will be going to Afghanistan again later this month.
“(The attacks) continue to be very present in our lives,” said Shockney. “In some ways I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.”
For Shockney and his Navy colleagues, some things will never be the same.
“It’s a different normal for us,” said Shockney.
He and his wife, Yvette, who were married in 2007, have a 1-year-old daughter named Ella.
“It makes you less self-centric,” said Shockney of his family. “You realize you are defending more than just your country and yourself. You’re defending your county’s goals that will hopefully protect your family too. We are hopefully moving toward a safer existence for our families, children, and friends.”
Shockney and his family now reside in Annapolis, Md.

Carin Benge Rojas

Carin Benge was a cadet at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. in 2001. Once the attacks on the U.S. began, she thought about how everything had changed for herself and those she knew planning a naval career.
“It was a pretty momentous event for all of us because we were the last class to join the Navy not knowing—we joined in peacetime,” said now Carin Rojas.
“I remember walking by one of the rooms (at the Academy) and there was a T.V. on, and seeing a plane hit one of the towers,” continued Rojas. “I remember thinking, this is not happening.”
Rojas said that people were concerned the Academy could be the terrorist’s next target since it was full of officers in training. The students were all told to go to their dorms, where “we were pretty much on lockdown,” said Rojas. They remained inside for the rest of the day, eating meals of course, but not attending classes.
One of the first things Rojas did was reassure her parents that she was okay.
“It was very scary,” said Rojas of the days after the attacks. “After 9/11 no one felt as safe as they had before.”
Rojas graduated from the Naval Academy in 2005, but was medically disqualified as a pilot because of air sickness. She took a job as a salesperson of medical products, which peaked her interest in a medical career. Rojas plans to apply to medical school next spring.
Rojas’ husband, Joshua (who she met at the Naval Academy) is a lieutenant in the Navy. They live in Almeda, Calif. with their 9-month-old son, Lockwood Jack. The family plans to move to San Diego in October for Joshua’s job. Joshua will not be deploying, said Rojas, and she is thankful for it.
However, 9/11 still affects Rojas’ family every day. Joshua’s brother is a Marine, and he was just deployed to Afghanistan last Monday.
Although she is currently visiting family in the area, Rojas will be flying back to California on a somewhat significant date—September 11.
She didn’t realize the significance of the date at first, but has decided not to change her flight.
“I’m not worried (about flying), although it is kind of eerie,” said Rojas.
Rojas said that right after the attacks happened, she was afraid to fly. Since then her fear has dissipated and she said that she is trusting that airport security will be extra-heavy that day.
“It’s a time of remembrance and looking back,” she said of the day. “So much has changed.”

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