September 11, 2002

"The day that changed America" - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

(Snippet. Emphasis mine.)

The day that changed America

By Robb Frederick


Wednesday, September 11, 2002


Val McClatchey heard the 757 roar over Indian Lake, three miles east of where it would crash. She had been watching the "Today" show, with footage from New York, and now the Pentagon.

She looked out the window, above the red barns. She caught a glimpse of it, like light off a watch face. Then nothing, and then a boom that nearly knocked her off the couch.

The lights went out. The phones, too.

She grabbed her camera. She stepped onto the front porch and shot one frame of the smoke cloud, a charcoal puff in a pure blue sky.

That image — "End of Serenity," she called it — caught the essence of Somerset County that day. The barns, the blue sky, the open slope of pasture — it's a postcard, except for that fat, black cloud, swelling like a smoke signal, warning that something horrible has happened.

"I thought it was an accident," McClatchey says, a Time and a Newsweek and a Reader's Digest in the binder on the coffee table, the pages with her photo marked with Post-Its. "I thought it was a small plane. I figured they were just trying to get out of the air."

She didn't walk up that road, toward the hole in the tree line. She could hear the sirens; she knew it was bad. She didn't need to see.

She went into the kitchen and put on barbecue for the rescue crews.


The people of Somerset County lost something else, something that cloud crowded out of Val McClatchey's photograph. She realized it that night, in bed, listening to the hum of the emergency generators. The lights up the hill came through the curtains.

"You go along, day to day, and you never think much about your situation in life," says her husband, Jack. "Something like this, it changes your outlook on things. You're waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"This area will never be the same," he says.

Note that the plane Val hears over her area flies almost in the opposite direction as officials said Flight 93 flew in before it crashed:

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