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Sue Olson: Glued to the radio in Alaska

From the COLLECTION: 20 years later, our readers share 9/11 memories series
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We were living and teaching in the remote village of Koyuk, Alaska on September 11, 2001. At about 6 a.m. my husband, Dave, and I were awoken by pounding on our door. It was a panicked fellow teacher, Ed, who blurted out that he heard on the radio that New York was being attacked. We hurried up to the school and met with the principal, Chuck, and the district ski instructor, Rudy, and turned on the radio to listen together.

We had no TV reception because we were in such a remote location. We continued to listen to radio station KICY from Nome until it was time for school to start at 9 a.m. We held classes, while wondering what was happening in New York. Both during lunch break and after school, we tuned in for any updates, hoping to get more of an idea of what was happening in New York.

The reports were astounding; the airplanes crashing into the Towers and the eventual collapse; the crash into the Pentagon and the tragic scene in Pennsylvania. However, the radio could not provide us with the images that people all around the world could see with access to TV.

Like everywhere else in the nation, the airline service to this small village was put on hold. Since there are no roads to other villages, we were there for the duration; not receiving any mail nor groceries and no access to the outside

In December, we returned to LaCrosse for Christmas vacation. Since the end of the year was nearing, events of 2001 were shown on TV. This was the first time that I saw video of what happened that day. I broke down crying. The news on the radio hadn’t prepared me for the reality of the shocking and upsetting events of that awful September day.

Sue Olson

La Crosse


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