Battalion Chief Jason Ornellas and Captain Charles Metivier, who work with the Kauai Fire Department, were engine operators on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The whole thing started before I came to work,” as the shift change is at 7 a.m., Ornellas said.
Metivier added: “It was surreal. But it made me want to come to work where we sat around as a team, watching and sharing, ‘What if it was us?’”
While the men sat and watched the events unfold, a firefighter from New York, who was on vacation, stopped at the Lihue Fire Station, Ornellas said.
“He was distraught because the Lihue Airport had shut down, due to security. He wanted to get back to New York, and asked us if we could do anything,” Ornellas said. “‘That’s my brothers! ‘That’s my brothers! I need to get back to them’ — he kept saying that. I never forgot that.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, members of al-Qaida hijacked four planes, two of which were crashed into the World Trade Center. A third plane hit the Pentagon, and the fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
Over 3,00 people were killed during the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., after the smoke and rubble cleared, according to reports.
On the 15th anniversary of the attacks, some Kauai residents shared their memories of that day.
Charisse Campana was in the middle of a history lesson when she heard that planes hit buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C.
“All of a sudden, my teacher got upset, and we all wondered why,” she said. “He turned on the TV, and went on about a terrorist attack. He stopped the lesson to watch the news.”
Being a seventh-grader at the time, Campana said she didn’t understand what the word “terrorist” meant.
“I knew it was an attack on a building. But I didn’t realize it was a different country responsible for it,” she said.
The Kilauea resident said she remembers watching a live news report, showing a crowd of people running and screaming.
“I was speechless,” she said.
Shawn Naylor was living in Mount Vernon, Washington, on Sept. 11.
“I was just getting ready to go to work when I heard the news,” he said. “It was unbelievable, really.”
When he got to work, Naylor, who now lives in Lihue, said he was glued to the TV for the rest of the day.
“My friend and I watched the TV over and over, all day long,” he said.
For Bessie Estonactoc of Mililani, waking up to the news that morning was “surreal.”
“I remember thinking, ‘How could that happen?’” she said. “My first thought was something was wrong with the navigation, and the pilot crashed into the buildings. But the more I watched, I realized ‘No, we’re being attacked.’”
“It was scary to think we were being invaded,” Estonactoc added.
The attacks hit a little too close to home for Estonactoc, whose son had enlisted in the Air Force just a month before.
“It was scary that he had just joined, but it was a done deal. But he was sent to England, so we were relieved,” she said.
Roman Villanueva of Kapaa said he was in shock when he saw the news of the attacks on TV.
“I was in awe. My memory can still recollect that day like it was last week,” he said.
Anthony Padden said his roommate woke him up that morning so they could watch the news.
“It was live, but we didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “All we saw was a building smoking; we just thought it was on fire.”
It wasn’t until Padden, of Kilauea, saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center when he realized what had happened.
“I knew the world was never going to be the same again,” he said.
Watching the building fall was especially emotional, Padden added.
“I thought the people were going to be able to get out, but then the building collapsed,” he said. “It was all ash; it was really sad.”
Jim Dimora, of Kekaha, was on Kauai when he heard the news of the attack.
“When I heard about it in in the morning, we were all in shock that someone would be that vicious — to hurt innocent people to prove their political points,” he said.
After the attack, Dimora hiked Hanakapiai.
“Certainly afterward, everybody’s heart was hurting from what had occurred,” he said. “I can’t remember when I did it, but I hiked out to Hanakapiai with a small group of local people. When we got there, there was people in prayer. So I brought my Hawaiian nose flute and I said ‘OK, this is a performance.’ That was my way of sharing the sorrow that I felt and the group felt.”
Rose Sanborn said she found out about the attacks when her husband at the time came home early from his job at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
“We watched the television for the rest of the day, watching and seeing everything take place,” she said. “The World Trade Center? Until that tragedy, I never even knew where it was. I had never heard about it.”
After Sept. 11, Sanborn’s former husband, who was with the Hawaii Army National Guard, started to pull lot more security details at the Lihue Airport. A few months later, he was deployed to Iraq, Sanborn said.
“That had a huge impact on our family,” she said.
Noah Funaki was only 3 years old on the day of the attacks.
“I remember sitting at home watching the morning cartoons when my parents started yelling and getting frantic,” he said.
At the time, Funaki was living in San Clemente, California, near a nuclear power plant. He remembers his parents being worried that something was going to happen at the facility.
“I remember the traffic being real busy. It was only later that I could piece things together, and it made me become more aware that things like that can happen — even here in America,” he said.