Tollbooth worker sees ‘we’re vulnerable’

Like many Americans on the West Coast, Loyd Crown was busy getting ready for work on the ill-fated morning of Sept. 11.

Only what began as his typical ritual of watching the morning news over a cup of coffee rapidly turned into a living nightmare. Crown, like millions of his fellow citizens, watched in spellbound horror as two hijacked planes crashed into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

“I think we were all just dumfounded that something like that could happen,” said Crown.

But duty called and Crown reluctantly left the news coverage to report in for his early shift at the Hood River Tollbridge. He said many motorists crossing that morning were unaware of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast because they had been traveling without a radio on. However, as the morning events unfolded, Crown said it became clear from the downcast faces that the news had finally caught up with hundreds of people making the crossing. He also kept his ear tuned to the continual broadcasts that heralded more tragedies, the collapse of the Twin Towers and the targeting of the Pentagon by a third hijacked jet.

With between 6,000-7,000 cars crossing each day, Crown said there was not a lot of time to share information but the mood of the day was clearly conveyed by the serious demeanor of all citizens.

“Most of the people who had seen the news were really somber that day,” he said. “I think it opened their eyes, just like it did mine, that we’re vulnerable.”

Within the next two days Crown said the true reaction to the worst attack on American soil became evident. Hundreds of people dropped off flags and patriotic posters on their way over the bridge, many of which still line the walls of the booth. An increasing number of cars passed by waving the stars and stripes and flag decals and “United We Stand” decals and bumper stickers were clearly evidenced. Crown also said the generosity of Americans was shown by the willingness to donate an extra quarter to the donation box that had been set up at the booth to raise money for the Red Cross to use in its 9-11 relief programs.

“I think Sept. 11 brought people a lot closer together, we were a long way away from it but it was just like it happened right here,” Crown said.

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