Locals watch in horror as news unfolds

September 11, 2001 12:00 am
New Yorkers flee the debris clouds from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Both towers collapsed after airplanes collided with the towers in an apparent terrorist attack Tuesday morning. The Pentagon was also hit by a plane, and a fourth plane crashed outside Pittsburgh. (From The Associated Press).
New Yorkers flee the debris clouds from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Both towers collapsed after airplanes collided with the towers in an apparent terrorist attack Tuesday morning. The Pentagon was also hit by a plane, and a fourth plane crashed outside Pittsburgh. (From The Associated Press).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

Between bites of bacon and sips of coffee, diners at the Baker Truck Corral discussed only one topic this morning.

Amid the normal background buzz of conversation the same phrases stood out, repeated over and over: two planes crashed, and both towers went down, and smoke everywhere.

When it first happened the whole restaurant just emptied out and everyone went to look for a TV or a radio, said J.B. Matthiesen, manager at the Truck Corral on East Campbell Street near the freeway.

Its a sad day.

Matthiesen said that at one point the crowd of truck drivers spilled out into the hallway that leads to the TV-equipped lounges, which are open only to people with commercial drivers licenses.

Early morning normally is a busy time, anyway, he said, as drivers stop for breakfast.

Truck driver Jim Stewart was sleeping when his cell phone rang.

It was his wife, Rhonda, calling from their home in California to see if her husband had heard the news.

Stewart, who is en route to Salt Lake City, had not. He couldnt believe what his wife was saying.

I thought she was just pulling my leg, Stewart said.

He rushed inside the Truck Corral, searching for a television, and he was still there at 8:45 a.m., crammed into one of the TV lounges reserved for truck drivers.

Sitting behind Stewart was Randy Mack, a driver from Shelton, Wash.

Mack, who is hauling a load to Liberty, Mo., stopped at the Truck Corral for breakfast. He hadnt heard the news, but it was the first thing he heard when he walked into the restaurant.

As soon as he finished his meal, Mack headed for the TV lounge.

Asked what his reaction was when he learned what had happened on the East Coast, Mack was silent for a moment.

Im at a loss for words actually, he said.

Mack and his fellow truckers agreed that the CB radio frequencies across the country will be filled with talk of the tragedies for weeks to come.

Thats all youre going to hear, Mack said.

A few blocks west on Campbell, Wade Hamilton stood on the sidewalk in front of Pizza Hut, listening to a radio while a friend installed a new thermostat in his pickup truck.

Hamilton was driving home to Boise after a week-long fishing trip on the Columbia River when the truck overheated.

He didnt know about the disasters back East until he visited the Truck Corral.

His portable radio has been on ever since.

The only reason its out here is to listen to (the news), Hamilton said.