“Recovering from the unbelievable” screamed the headline of the Minneapolis Star Tribune on this date in 2001. Newspapers across the nation likewise printed breaking reports of the surprise attack on New York City and Washington DC’s Pentagon building.
Many people watched the live television feed as the famous Twin Towers in New York collapsed. President Bush responded to the attacks as an act of war. Initial news reports correctly revealed Osama Bin Laden of Afghanistan as the leader of the hijackers who overtook the airplanes that they crashed into the buildings.
The Grand Forks Herald reported that UND officials had confirmed that the FBI had no investigation into the Grand Forks University flight school. UND’s dean of the School of Aerospace Sciences affirmed that the university did not have the equipment to train pilots to effectively fly the planes used in the attacks.
Amid the confusion and shock, there was also a sweeping feeling of remorse and anger. Tanker planes and fighter jets from the air base in Grand Forks assisted in the protection and patrol of the skies, watching over many Midwest cities as a precaution against further attacks.
Blood banks across the nation were at the ready, and blood bank collections the first two days after the attack hit 1.5 million units of blood as people rushed to donate.
One North Dakotan played a key role in the nation’s response. It would be the duty of Lt. General Chuck Wald of Minot to develop the air campaign in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. He was Deputy Commander of the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany at the time of his retirement in 2006.
Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark
Grand Forks Herald, Sept. 13, 2001, The Star Tribune, Metro edition, Sept., 13, 2001, Curt Eriksmoen.