Remembering 9-11: ‘Everyone was so on edge’

Published 8:00 am Saturday, September 11, 2021

No one could have been prepared for what happened on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Toni Overby had just celebrated her wedding the Saturday before. She and her husband were situated in the Bancorp South lobby in Oxford when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center and they immediately rushed back home to be with their two month old son.

Overby’s husband went to the field house at the University of Mississippi and watched as the second plane hit the South Tower.

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“I realized immediately that life could change your perception and peace permanently,” said Overby.

It has been 20 years since the series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the militant Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States of America that cost the lives of 2,977 people and thousands were injured.

As time passes, the nation gains more and more people who did not experience the tragedy, but for those who had the chance to witness it, the memory of 9-11 is still etched clearly in their mind. Many families and friends lost their loved ones.

“I went with my then roommate to sit with her cousin in Memphis to see if the cousin’s father made it out alive,” said Kimberly Baird. “He did not.”

Soon after the terrorist attacks, the United States government immediately responded with executive decisions that began investigations into organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda and applied military operations in Iraq.

Navy Petty Officer Kristy Brown was completing Basic Training in Chicago, Illinois, when she received the news.

“I remember my (Recruit Division Commander) coming in to let us know what had happened,” said Brown. “We literally had no communication with the outside world during basic training so we relied on our superiors for information.”

Brown said the very first step was to verify if any sailors had family members working in the area and how to manage contact between them and their families. 

“Everyone was so on edge,” she said. “We all knew at some point we would have to answer the call to serve and for us that meant 6 month deployments — or longer … Those were sensitive times in our country and it affected us all greatly. Graduating (from) Oxford High School and going straight into the military I was so proud to fight for my country.” 

Brown deployed with CV-67 John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier, stationed in Jacksonville Florida and fought in both Operation Enduring Freedom in February 2002 in the North Arabian Sea and in Operation Iraq freedom. 

September 11 is certainly a dark day in our nation’s history and it has left impressions and memories that will endure for years to come. 

The world is still reckoning with the large-scale consequences of the attacks and the issues that were born afterward: the international conflicts, the internal division among citizens in the U.S. and a definitive line between what the nation was before and what the nation is after.

On a smaller scale, people had to live with the tragedy of that day, learn how to move forward.

“I’ve learned to hold loosely to expectation and to find gratitude in the ordinary,” said Overby. “We are never promised another breath. I learned that my job as a mother is to show my children how to love others.”