20 years later, events of Sept. 11, 2001 still fresh

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C., and the plane that was crashed in a Pennsylvania field. 

Most people remember exactly where they were when the news filtered into northern Michigan. Students and teachers were in class for the first full week of classes, while others were just getting settled in for a nondescript Tuesday in Presque Isle County.

Kay Radtke

Northeast Michigan was soaked in late summer sunshine, as was the east coast where the plot of terrorists was playing out on commercial airlines. 

Rogers City High School alum Kay Radtke was in the Big Apple, where she made her home that morning, and continues to live there to this day. 

The publisher/marketing consultant, who has been working at home during the novel coronavirus pandemic, just went through another disaster with the storms that claimed the lives of New Yorkers and flooded the subways. It was nothing close to what happened Sept. 11, 2001.

Radtke will be tuned in this week to listen to the reading of the names of the victims lost when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. 

Twenty years later, security is still taken very seriously.

“You need to check in before entering any building,” she said. “You need to show photo I.D. (identification), and all of that. There has always been an awareness that something else could happen.”

Looking back, Radtke remembers hearing about the first plane on the radio before heading to work.

“It sounded like it was a small plane. So, I left and went to the office,” she explained. 

Her office was in the Times Square/Broadway theater area of mid-Manhattan. They began evacuating office buildings, police lined the streets and many blocks were closed to traffic. Plus, there was no way to get in touch with family members.

Back home in Midland, Michigan, Kay’s sister, Lyn, was waiting for word that her sibling was safe. Lyn knew Kay frequently visited the World Trade Center, dining at the Windows on the World restaurant and often had appointments in the area.

“Although we left our buildings trying to remain as calm as possible, we walked down the streets fearing there might be more attacks, and fearing that no area was safe,” she said.

KAY WALKED by Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick Cathedral and the United Nations on her way home, wondering if she would get by them safely.  

“I also remember looking south toward the Twin Towers, and through the crisp, clear blue sky seeing huge clouds of white smoke surrounding the dark black smoke that was rising higher and higher into the air,” said Radke. “I walked about 35 blocks through the city. Walking was the only way as the bus lines were incredibly long.

“Later that afternoon, when I was back in my apartment, the heavy smell of the smoke drifted through my closed, locked windows. I could only imagine how terrible the air must have been in the area of the Twin Towers.” Radke finally got a call through to Lyn to tell her she was all right.

The following Sunday at her church, the minister in his prayer service asked people to call out names of loved ones who were casualties or still missing.  

Names were being called out from throughout the congregation, including by a young woman sitting next to Kay with her four children.  The minister then read a list of the local area firefighters still missing — one was the name she had called out.

“THE SCARY part is that we did not know what would happen next,” she said. “Even when I think about it today, all those feelings come back.”

Radtke, the daughter of Eileen (Meyer) and Wilbert Radtke, grew up in Rogers City and has lived in New York all of her adult life. The University of Michigan graduate was executive vice president and associate publisher of Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 10 years ago this week.