Sept. 11, 2001 – For Virgin Islands residents, visitors and off-islanders, as for people across America and around the world, Tuesday was like no other day in their lives.
Some could remember as far back as the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. For others, the day of infamy in their memories dated back to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, or the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. For virtually all, the shock was new and different, and worse.
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Café Amici in downtown Charlotte Amalie closed about 2 p.m. "Nobody wanted to eat," waiter Malachi McCormick said afterward. "People just said they were sick." McCormick said the customers he did serve mainly sat in shock sipping drinks or coffee and talking among themselves and with the staff.
"One tourist couple came in who didn't know about it," he said, "and when I told them, they couldn't believe it." The husband just kept saying, "My God, that's where I work! I would have been there — my friends are there!"
Kris Benjamin, a Virgin Islander living in Washington, D.C., sent the Source an e-mail with the following words of wisdom:
"To Virgin Islanders: It may be a bit difficult to reach family members in the D.C. metro area and / or New York City, but the phones are clearing up. We are asked to use cell phones sparingly. Land line phones may also be busy.
"There are no words to describe the feeling here today, so be patient with family members when we try to explain."
Telephone lines were jammed for much of the day, but relatives in New York finally reached Soumaya Collymore, a waitress at The Green House restaurant on the St. Thomas waterfront, to tell her that her brother Hicham Kabbaj had survived.
Collymore said she knew her brother, a computer analyst who works in the World Trade Center, was at his job when passenger jets smashed into the twin towers of the complex Tuesday morning. "It was horrifying," she said. "It's still horrifying."
When she first saw the television coverage, "I knew he was there," she said. "Then I couldn't get through, and couldn't get through. But then my family reached me."
Cynthia Lockhart, a clerk at the Territorial Court on St. Thomas, said Tuesday afternoon that she had not been able to reach family members to ask about her sister, Glenda Martin, who works as a paralegal for the Army in the Pentagon building.
"I haven't heard from her yet," Lockhart said Tuesday afternoon. "I just hope I can talk to her tonight."
Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II said that his daughter works in a building a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center but that she was evacuated from the area before the buildings collapsed.
"We have a lot of family members that reside in New York, and we're very concerned for their safety," James said.
Editor's note: Source staff members Molly Morris and Jim Day contributed to this report.