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Bartlesville couple remembers being in NYC on 9/11

new york city 9:11.jpg
Posted at 5:35 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 18:40:30-04

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — A Bartlesville couple is sharing their story of being in New York City on 9/11.

Dan and Janie Keleher, parents of 2 News Oklahoma reporter Katie Keleher, know first hand what it was like to be in the city on the day of the attacks.

“When you’re in the middle of it, you’re not sure how to react at first," Dan said.

They were there with Dan's parents and some friends for a business convention. They were staying in a hotel in Times Square, which is about four miles from the World Trade Center site.

The day before the attacks, the group visited Ellis Island. Dan and Janie remember seeing planes flying close to the monuments and buildings. They said they even discussed how they couldn't believe they were allowed to fly that close.

On the morning of 9/11, they woke up to the news of the first tower being hit.

“I said, 'You won’t believe this, one of those planes hit a tower and it’s on fire,'” Dan said.

Their first priority was letting their family back home know they were okay before communication was shut down. Afraid Times Square could be a target, they ventured out of the hotel.

“It was just surreal to see people walk," Janie said. "You could see the smoke from where we were. Everybody was walking, everybody was on foot. There were no cars, taxis anything in the streets. It was just people walking.”

Those people were covered in dust and ash. Military jets were constantly flying overhead. They were only able to hear news about what was going on from the screens outside. The group stopped at restaurants and St. Patrick’s Cathedral where they prayed, trying to figure out what was next.

The city that never sleeps became quiet.

“That night in Times Square, it was complete silence," Dan said. "No vehicles at all. My guess is that was probably a one and only time for that area.”

The next day, with no taxis available, a limo took them to the train station. They then traveled to upstate New York, where a friend loaned them an old van and they started driving home.

“I will never forget we were at the gas station and there was a gentleman filling up his car on the other side of us," Janie said. "And he was heading to the city because his family member was a firefighter. And he was going into the city to find him and help if he could.”

After driving for 24 hours, the group made it back to Bartlesville.

The Keleher family had taken a trip to New York City just three weeks earlier. Dan took pictures of the skyline, including the twin towers. Just a short time later, they were gone. The image of them coming down will never be forgotten.

“Seeing that really brought chills to everybody, still does to this day," Dan said.

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