KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anyone who was old enough to remember the 9/11 terror attacks remembers where they were when they learned the world had changed forever.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives when hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Passengers on a fourth plane fought against the terrorists on board and crashed the plane into a Pennsylvania field.
Now, 20 years later, FOX4’s John Holt and The Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling are joined by retired FBI Special Agent Jeff Lanza to discuss what they remember about that fateful day.
“I remember that morning I had gone up to the master bedroom to get in a quick workout, turned on the old tube TV and saw what was unfolding as millions across the country and the globe did that hour of the morning, and my day quickly was get off the workout, and into a suit, and headed into work,” Holt said.
Helling recalled a similar memory, heading into the KCTV5 studio to anchor local CBS coverage of what was happening.
“And after the first plane hit the first tower, I remember looking and thinking that’s not a small airplane creating that kind of damage. Something else is going on,” Helling recalled. “About 17 or 18 minutes later the second plane hit the tower and at that point we knew we were involved in the story really of our lifetimes.”
“I do remember also seeing the contrails of jets turning around in the air to land, which was one of the first visual evidences we had of the tragedy involving the entire nation that day,” Helling added.
Retired Special Agent Jeff Lanza said he remembered delivering a speech to a business group the Plaza when the planes hit the towers. Then he headed straight to the FBI’s field office in Kansas City.
“My beeper went off like a firecracker. I was getting beep after beep after beep. Then my cell phone started getting calls as well, and I had voicemail messages as well. And I knew something was going on in Kansas City,” Lanza said.
Lanza served as the spokesman for the FBI in Kansas City at the time of the attacks and the media started calling him as soon as something happened.
“I knew something happened, and I wasn’t sure what it was. I turned on the radio in my car immediately before I even retrieved those messages to see what the news was and I couldn’t get local news, I got national news and Peter Jennings, I can remember vividly, saying that the tower had just collapsed,” Lanza said.
Holt and Helling spent the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks covering what was happening nationally, and locally for their respective TV stations. But, the hours and days following the attacks was very different for Lanza.
“Right out of the window of the conference room I was in talking to the executives of the FBI, trying to figure out what was happening. We had the TV on in the background watching the second tower fall and it was sitting there on live TV as many people saw that as well,” Lanza said. “We’re watching a plane come in, couple planes actually come in, like right by the windows of the FBI. We’re like looking at these planes like, no other day would you think anything about it, but now we’re thinking, is the FBI a target?”
Following the attacks, a slew of security measures took effect in an effort to prevent an attack like 9/11 from ever happening again. Lanza said he believes “without a doubt” that America is safer now than it was 20 years ago.
But he also warns, there’s a new type of threat lurking that we all should know.
“We are woefully under protected when it comes to cyber security, not only at the corporate level but at the government level and it’s been identified in reports that have been made public,” Lanza said.
To hear more about the threat America faces when it comes to cyber security, as well as more on the steps taken after the 9/11 attacks to make the U.S. a safer place, click on the video in the above player.
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