Sept. 11 remains painful

By Ed Brock

Renee Brittian of Riverdale woke up Thursday morning and, like "a rock, like something falling out of the sky," it occurred to her that the day was Sept. 11.

It was the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed her sister Diane Hale McKenzie, and the passage of time has done nothing to ease her pain. Seeing the same images on the news of that day when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 rammed the side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., where McKenzie was working, brings it all back for Brittian.

"You can't forget," Brittian said. "You have to deal with it. You feel anger inside. There's nothing else."

The pain is still fresh as well for McKenzie's teen-age daughter, Brittian's niece Connie Hale.

"She can't help but cry," Brittian said. "Her life will never be the same."

It was just the night before the attacks that Brittian last talked to her sister. They talked for three hours about their daughters, about McKenzie's plans to come home for Christmas.

McKenzie, 39 when she died, was one of seven brothers and sisters all born in Riverdale, Brittian said previously.

The last time Brittian had seen her sister in person was June 2000.

McKenzie had joined the U.S. Army when she was 18 years old and served four years before working as a civilian at the Pentagon for the past 23 years, Brittian said. In February 2001 she had been promoted to the position of executive secretary for high-ranking officers, a job Brittian said her sister was enjoying very much.

After the attacks Brittian had said that she would leave it to God to provide justice to the people who had carried out the attack. Her faith still keeps her going.

"I told my daughter that step by step, God's going to make it all right," Brittian said.

Brittian said she had to work Thursday but planned to get together with family that night to see how everybody else was doing.

Other people around the county marked the second anniversary of the attacks in other ways. Firefighters from several departments marked the event with three sets of five rings from the firehouse bell, the traditional sign that a firefighter has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Soldiers from Fort Gillem and Fort McPherson watched a re-enactment of the flag-raising at the World Trade Center in New York..

In the faculty dining room at Clayton College & State University, student Shedwyn Echoles of Forest Park sat alone watching a computer slide presentation of pictures from the day of the attacks set to soft music.

"It opens up some old wounds," Echoles said. "I couldn't sleep for a week (after the attacks)."

Echoles' aunt had worked in the twin towers in New York and lost 32 friends in the attack.

About 30 people had attended the memorial event in the time Gerald Heavens, treasurer of the student government association that sponsored the event, came on watch at the door to the dining room.

"People have been going in and sitting and remembering," Heavens said. "Some people are emotional."