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Hoosier History Live

Sep 1, 2021

In advance of the 20th anniversary of what has been called the most historic event of the 21st century so far, Hoosier History Live will welcome phone calls throughout our show from listeners.

We invite you to call the WICR-FM studio (88.7) at 317-788-3314 and share where you were when you learned about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, or describe the ways, small and subtle or significant, that the tragic event changed your life.

For this special show, Nelson will be joined again by Tom Spalding, who was the public safety reporter for The Indianapolis Star when he accompanied Indiana Task Force 1, the rescue team that was deployed to Ground Zero in New York City. On a show from this past July, Tom was a guest along with Dave Cook, a battalion chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department who was among the 62 professional rescuers from Indiana and their 12-member support crew dispatched to search for survivors.

During the 20 years since the tragedy, Tom has been re-interviewing many of the task force members for an upcoming book; they ranged from firefighters, emergency medical technicians and structural specialists to search-dog handlers. Many of them have described where they were when they learned about the tragedy and wondered, as a task force member from Boone County asked, "Would this change me forever?"

A squad leader with the Warren Township Fire Department - which has since merged with IFD - described for Tom how he watched the terrorist attack unfold on TV with his family. As he canceled a planned trip to Montana and quickly prepared to head to Ground Zero, he recalled the reaction of his 9-year-old son: "For the first time he understood my job was dangerous."

When the Hoosier rescuers arrived in the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings, many encountered still-smoldering underground fires. During our show last month, Tom described how several Hoosiers barely escaped being burned alive when a 50-foot wall of fire shot up while they were searching for survivors underground.

Most Hoosiers, of course, did not have to face that kind of imminent danger - although the extent of what might happen across the country was not immediately apparent.

"People who weren't deployed have the most vivid memory of where they were when they got the word about the planes striking and the Twin Towers falling," Tom says. "[The Indiana task force] was able to respond - do something - so the moment isn't as raw for them."

We want to hear your recollections of that raw historic news and its impact on your lives, particularly in ways that have not been obvious, such as tightened security at airports. Speaking of that: Our host, Nelson, was at Indianapolis International Airport, preparing to board a plane to New York City, during the suicide hijackings of the airplanes that crashed into the 110-story Twin Towers of the trade center. So he will describe the scene at the Indy airport during our show.

Also during the show, Tom will describe two memorials that have been erected to honor victims of the 9-11 tragedy. He has visited the Indiana 9-11 Memorial in downtown Indianapolis that was dedicated on the 10th anniversary. The public is invited to 20th anniversary commemorative events Sept. 11, including a rededication ceremony beginning at 1:30 pm at the memorial near the Indiana Central Canal.

The memorial includes engraved granite tablets that describe remembrances of the 9-11 events. The tablets are flanked by two steel beams from the World Trade Center; one of the beams is topped by a bronze American bald eagle sculpted by Indianapolis firefighter Ryan Feeney. Ryan, who also sculpted the statue of Peyton Manning at Lucas Oil Stadium, has been a guest on Hoosier History Live for a show called Sculpting famous Hoosiers show.

Tom also has visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on the former site of the World Trade Center. A day-long series of events is planned for Sept. 11 at the national memorial.