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Residents remember significant historic events

Each of us passes through historic moments throughout our lives. While shared nationally or globally, we often remember these times through the filter of our personal experience. From a global pandemic or the assassination of a president to the biggest snowstorm in memory — these experiences are both widely shared and uniquely ours.

Below are a few memories of residents who offered their own “I remember where I was when.…” stories.

Beth Riner — 9/11 attacks

Our phone in Merriam, Kan., rang at 11 p.m. "Mom Beth, just wanted you to know we're at home and we're OK." Me: "OK from what?" The story unfolded. From our daughter-in-law’s window at work, she saw the second plane as it hit the second tower. Our son was nearby at law school, so they were able to find each other and head toward the train station. Crowds of confused people were looking for companions, transportation, or places to give blood. We ended the call. My mind rolled back years to a birthday dinner in "the first tower." We sang, then blessed the food. Now I knew — it was time to pray again!

Carolyn Wilken — John F. Kennedy assassination

I was in the junior high school gym, playing dodge ball, when someone came and told our teacher, and he told us. We didn't know if the vice president was killed, too. No one, not even our teachers, knew the order of succession beyond the vice president. Everyone just went and sat down on the bleachers, scared that someone could be killed like that. So blatant.

Evelyn Bergmann — 9/11 attacks

Glenn and I were on a tour of Boston when 9/11 happened. They closed Boston, and it was really hard to find our way back to our campground. We went in our motor home, and our campground organized the Boston tour. We never got to finish our tour.

Ed Duman — 9/11 attacks

When 9/11 happened, my wife Hilda and I were visiting family in Toronto, Canada. We were shocked by what we saw on the TV. We had to make a decision — do we stay in Canada, or do we pack up and head home to the USA. There were reports that the border was going to be closed. We loaded up the car and headed for the USA.

The US border was closed to truck traffic, and we were stuck in traffic miles from the border. A police car going in the opposite direction stopped and asked where we were going. We explained that we were trying to get home to the US. He said to follow him. We pulled out of the line of trucks and soon we were taking numerous back roads. We eventually ended up at the border crossing. We handed our passports to the border guard and after being questioned he handed them back to us and welcomed us back to the USA. Hilda and I were so relieved to be back.

Duane White — Tornado of 1951

I was in high school on a farm five miles East of Caldwell, Kansas, a half mile north of the Oklahoma border. It was hot and we did not have air conditioning. I slept on a cot outside. In the middle of the night, my dad came out to get me as the sirens of Caldwell were sounding, indicating bad weather. On the way to the house, I heard many bad and loud noises. I was carrying my cat, but my dad told me to let it go. The next morning, we still had our house, barn and outbuildings, but we lost an empty granary, machine shed and many trees. We found my cat that I was carrying 1.5 miles north on one of our farms. I will always remember that night.

Carolyn McCaul — 1951 Flood in Bottoms of Kansas City, Mo.

My husband, Don, and his partner, Red, worked in downtown Kansas City, Mo., and when they heard the "Bottoms" in Kansas City were devastated by a sudden rain storm, mixed with flooding by the Kaw river, they left work. The Bottoms not only had heavy industry and their famous stockyards; people lived there, too. So Red went home and got his fishing boat. He and Don spent the afternoon rescuing people from the buildings.

That evening we met friends at the outdoor Starlight Theatre and enjoyed performances under the stars. All day I wasn't watching TV or listening to the radio, so I did not hear what Don was doing until his secretary called and told me.

Esther Minter — Space shuttle Challenger explosion

I was taking my fifth grade class to lunch. My kindergarten teacher friend greeted me with "Have you heard the news? The Challenger has exploded!"

I had lesson plans from NASA to follow the flight and observe Halley's Comet for six days. My fifth-grade class had made a big bulletin board for all classes to follow the progress of the Challenger. Christa McAuliffe was the first teacher to go into space 34 years ago, January 28, 1986.

The explosion was only 73 seconds after launch from Kennedy Space Center. All seven members of the crew died. It was hard taking down that bulletin board.

Mary Lou Niebling — Beginning of war with Japan, December 7, 1941

I was sitting in a large movie theater in St. Louis with my parents and brother. The movie was interrupted, the lights were turned on, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke on the movie screen and announced the US was at war with Japan. The lights were left on and everyone exited the theater.

Larry Blake — 1935 presidential campaign in Olathe, Kan.

I was standing in the middle of the Santa Fe Rail Road tracks at the Santa Fe Street crossing in Olathe, sometime during the summer/fall of 1935. I was standing at the end of the observation car listening to the campaign speech of Franklin Roosevelt, who was on the platform with his wife, Eleanor. The photographer also took a picture facing away from the observation car platform showing me dressed in bib overalls on the front row. Can you find me?

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