East Tennessee honors 9/11 victims

For some people, when they think of September 11, 2001, they think of the one of the darkest days in American History.

For others, like Brenda Vandever of Farragut, they think of their loved ones. Fifteen years ago, Vandever’s Brother, Tony Karns, went to work on a sunny Tuesday morning, thinking it was just another day, never knowing it would be his last.

He worked on the 97th floor in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the first that was attacked, and Vandever said when she heard the news, she thought the worst.

“I went to my family and visited my other two sisters and we were all watching the TV and when my brother Tony Karns didn’t phone home by late afternoon, I knew he was pretty much gone,” Vandever said. “I knew that I’d probably never see my brother again.”

For members of law enforcement and emergency personnel, 9/11 reminds them of why they go to work each day, with first responders on 9/11 running toward burning buildings, as everyone else was running away.

“For those of us in emergency services, it highlights to us why we do this job,” Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said.

Though it’s been 15 years since terror rocked the nation, those who lived through it will never forget where they were when they heard what had happened.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Jerry Cox, supervising chaplain at Knox County Sheriff’s Office. “I had to get to a TV to see it. I was in my car, and it just shocked me.”

Dozens of people gathered in Knoxville for an annual memorial service, honoring those who lost their lives more than a decade ago in an effort to ensure that people never forget.

“I equate 9/11 to Pearl Harbor,” Chief Rausch said. “As a young person, I wasn’t around when Pearl Harbor happened but I know the history and I know the story. I think it’s important for our young people as well to know the history and know the story and understand the importance of an event like that where our country was attacked.”

At the service, three names of people with ties to East Tennessee were read aloud. One of the names was Vandever’s Brother, who was born and raised in Knoxville.

“I just miss him,” Vandever said, fighting back tears. “And it just all comes back every time there’s a terrorist attack. I just see the dirt and the debris and the death. It’s just horrible, and it won’t go away.”

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