Remembering 9-11: Bob Wright

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Sept. 10, 2001, Bob Wright and several other Rowan County business leaders visiting Washington, D.C. were baffled when U.S. Rep. Howard Coble told them one of the greatest threats to America was terrorism.
“It was a strange thing to hear,” said Wright, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. “At that point in time for people, terrorism was such a non-issue. We hadn’t experienced any and didn’t think in those terms.”
That was about to change.
The next morning, as Wright and others evacuated the U.S. Capitol building after terror attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Coble’s words rang in his ears.
“Talk about a timely statement,” Wright said.
Terrorism became a household word on Sept. 11, 2001, and Americans suddenly became familiar with the horrors other countries have endured for years.
“We were sheltered from that kind of thing,” Wright said. “It wasn’t quite as real until it happened here.”
Wright later learned that a fourth hijacked plane. likely bound for the Capitol building, had been diverted by passengers and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
“My wife and I often said, if not for those heroes, that could have been us,” Wright said.
As Wright’s group evacuated, they saw images on TVs in congressional offices and realized how catastrophic the situation was. They didn’t learn until later the Pentagon also had been attacked.
Authorities would not let people cross the Capitol grounds, and many officers were armed, Wright said. Fighter jets repeatedly screamed overhead, just a few hundred feet off the ground.
The first time Wright heard the roar, he thought another passenger plane was about to crash nearby.
“I started to think, we’re done,” he said.
The Rowan contingent managed to stay together and returned to a nearby hotel, where they boarded a charter bus and began the slow trek out of the city.
“I stood there in the aisle of that bus watching the Pentagon on fire,” Wright said. “It was real, and it was surreal.”
Today, Wright and other local leaders are back in the nation’s capitol for the Annual Washington Issues Conference, the same event he attended 10 years ago.
“I hope we never face anything like that again, anywhere in this country or anywhere in this world,” Wright said.