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Sept. 11 survivor to share story today in Poplar Bluff
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- The Butler County Republican Central Committee is rallying around 9/11 for its banquet this year as a replacement fundraiser for the annual Lincoln Days celebration, which was canceled reportedly due to organizers campaigning.
Amid a lineup of GOP officials on the local, state and national levels, an area survivor of the 2001 terrorist attacks will share his account during the ninth anniversary of the tragedy, beginning at 5:30 p.m. today in the Black River Coliseum, the Daily American Republic reported.
"This is my burden to bear on this thing -- to give this speech about that day, and do it gratefully, for the reward of having a pulse," explained Adam Staples, 31, of Walnut Ridge, Ark. "I'm by no means a speaker by trade."
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the young businessman was in a training seminar for a brokerage firm on the 61st floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center as the second airplane collided with the building. When the first plane had crashed into the north tower, he was likely on an elevator to the 43rd floor for an intermission, he recalled.
An announcement was made for evacuation of the neighboring building, but the south tower was said to be secure at the time, he remembered. Although many people chose to exit the building, Staples returned to his floor.
"Due to my lack of knowledge of the world around me, I guess, I didn't know the twin towers were bombed back in 1993," Staples said. He only realized how grim the situation was when he observed papers flying around and fire on top of the buildings below from a 61st floor window.
He then heard what he later identified as a "jet plane throttling up," Staples said, when the south tower was hit as close as a dozen floors above him, he said.
"There was a big enough explosion where I knew my building wasn't safe," Staples said. "I know nothing about engineering, but for some reason, in the back of my mind, I knew the building was going to collapse."
Panic first set in for Staples, he said, when people were backed up in the staircase all trying to get out of the building at once. He eventually made his way safely to the street just several minutes before the south tower crumbled to the ground, he said.
On his way to his hotel three miles away, Staples overheard a broadcast reporting that the Pentagon had been hit as well.
"On one hand I'm thinking, if two planes hit buildings, there are probably more in the air, and New York is as likely a target as anywhere," Staples said. "The bigger concern for me [after learning about the Pentagon] was that this was the start of a bad series of events."
Within days, Staples returned to northeast Arkansas, and has since shared his experience before audiences at hundreds of churches. This weekend will mark his first partisan engagement, he noted.
Staples linked up with the Butler County Republican Central Committee because his parents are customers of Steve Whitworth, an owner of Whitworth's Gift Chest Jewelers, who is also one of the committee members.
"New Yorkers had different experiences, but here's the perspective of a small town guy, having been thrown in all that fray," Whitworth said. "These horrible events get kind of brushed aside as the years pass, but this [memorial banquet] will serve as a reminder for how great the American spirit is, and how we cannot be defeated by anything.
"We rebounded remarkably well and the economy grew stronger than ever after Sept. 11," he continued, "and with the right leadership, we will rebound again."
In addition to honoring the victims of the tragedy, Betty Scott, a local Republican who died in 2008 while serving as Butler County circuit clerk, will receive postmortem recognition.
Other speakers of the evening include state Sen. Rob Mayer, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, state auditor candidate Tom Schweich, and Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.
"This is [designed] for like-minded conservatives to come together, remember those who died, and discuss ways we as a country can keep this from ever happening again," said Eddy Justice, central committee chairman. "We believe everybody should remember the sacrifices, and we are just doing that in our way. I don't think there will be a dry eye in the place."
Tickets for the event, which includes dinner provided by Tasteful Creations, are available at the coliseum box office for $25.