by Melissa Brunner
I couldn't let the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks get too far behind us without sharing more of our conversation with interim Topeka City Manager Dan Stanley. Stanley was working at the Pentagon when terrorists flew an airplane into the side of the buildings. You saw a small portion of his recollections on our news Sunday night, but I've included here our entire 20 minute conversation.
What struck me in visiting with Stanley was his comment that it is more difficult to talk about now than it was in the days and months following the attack. At the time, he said, it was easy to compartmentalize what happened because everyone was focused on the mission that followed - the global war on terror. I thought of that while watching the CBS documentary Sunday night on firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center. Many now deal with depression, some left the force altogether. In the immediate aftermath, they had a task to complete - as gruesome as it was to sift through the pile of rubble finding, not survivors, but victims. With that behind them, what do they do next? How long is it acceptable to grieve?
In the full interview, Stanley speaks about the "terror with the morning coffee" in the daily intelligence reports detailing hints of planned attacks; he talks a bit about his own son preparing for a third tour in Iraq; he describes further details of his journey out of the building; and he reflects on a fateful decision - opting out of a meeting down the hall, in a room that took a direct hit from the plane. No one in that meeting survived.
It's an emotional conversation. One you which you should hear in its entirety to appreciate what Stanley says we, as a nation, must never forget.