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Sept. 11, 2001: Normal day turned into weeks for Somerset County 911 coordinator

Karl Polacek | Daily Courier
Alan Baumgardner, Somerset 911 shift supervisor, addresses the crowd in Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday.

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Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 8:35 p.m.
 

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, started normally for Alan Baumgardner, who was Somerset County 911 coordinator. He spoke about that day to the residents of Mt. Pleasant and surrounding communities at the gazebo on Wednesday night during the borough's annual tribute to honor and remember.

“I doubt I will ever forget anything about that day,” said Baumgardner, who is a native of Friedens, Somerset County. “I got up that morning to go to work. It was my youngest son's first day of pre-school, so I took him (Brendan) to work with me. (I) walked him over to preschool. It was 8:30. He said ‘Dad, you're going to pick me up.'

“I said ‘Yeah, I'll pick you up,' 'cause it's only three buildings away from the 911 center.”

Baumgardner went back to work.

There was a television on in the 911 center. They were watching a news network when they broke into the broadcast with the first reports of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City. As the day unfolded, the situation grew worse. Suddenly, as the first World Trade Center Tower fell, all of the phones in the center rang at once.

Having been trained as a volunteer fireman and having participated in several aircraft accidents, he headed to the scene at Shanksville. When he, the fire departments, ambulance crews and police arrived, they found what they did not expect.

There was some smoke, burning trees, paper, pieces of mail and money falling from the sky, but no people and no visible aircraft, he said. It would be more than 30 days before his young son would see him again.

Baumgardner, the police, FBI, volunteers and other personnel were to spend long days at the location.

The one thing Baumgardner remembers well was the help received from all counties in the region, even as far away as Centre County. No one at the crash site had to worry about food or water. Churches in the surrounding area provided three meals a day for the entire time, at no cost. They received truckload shipments of bottled water.

“Volunteers are a great asset,” he said. “And there's no way to replace them.

“When nobody else knows who to call or when to call or the jobs nobody else wants, the firefighters get called out.”

His remarks echoed that of Mt. Pleasant Mayor Gerald Lucia, who is also the borough's fire chief.

Others who participated in the evening ceremonies, viewed by several hundred residents, included American Legion and VFW honor guards; Mt. Pleasant Firemen's band; selections by soloist Traci Myers; selections by Rich Horne on the bagpipe; invocation by United Methodist Church of Mt. Pleasant Pastor Randy Landman; and benediction by the Rev. Rick Kosisko, pastor of St. Pius X & Visitation Roman Catholic churches. Council President Joe Bauer was master of ceremonies.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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