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Their own words #2: Tom Fallon

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

South columnist Lorraine Mutschler of Whitehall has been friends with Loretta Moran Fallon for almost 50 years, from the time Lorraine went to work at the former Bell Telephone South office on Smithfield Street in Downtown Pittsburgh right out of high school.

    Related articles: In their words

Loretta Fallon's e-mail: Today's horror

Lorraine Mutschler: All of us are touched by the tragedy


Loretta's husband, Tom, was originally from Dormont, and he and Loretta lived in Mt. Lebanon before moving to their mountain home near Shanksville, Somerset County.

He was the longtime leader of the Tom Fallon singers and vice president of Iron Age magazine until his second and final retirement in 1992.

Their sprawling farm was a verdant, tranquil mountain retreat until it was marred last week by the nearby crash of one of four jetliners hijacked by terrorists, who also destroyed New York's World Trade Center towers and assaulted the Pentagon in Virginia.

South shares the Fallons' stories as they shared them in e-mail exchanges with Lorraine, who provides an extra column this week on her own reflections on a terrible war of terror against America.


From: Tom Fallon []

Sent: Thur 09/13/01 10:01 a.m.

To: Lorraine Mutschler []

Subject: My God. What happened?

It took another "Day of Infamy" to let the whole world know there really was a place called Shanksville.

We who live in and about Shanksville owe a large debt of gratitude to the brave passengers on Flight 93 who, aware they were surely about to die, grappled with the hijackers who held them hostage, forced the plane down and surely prevented another holocaust in Washington. They deserve recognition as heroes.

By pure chance, I was passing within several hundred yards of the crash on Lambertsville Road less than a minute after it happened. An hysterical housewife, running from her house, flagged me down, pointed in the direction of the crash and screamed, "My God. What happened?"

Looking to my left I saw an enormous ball of smoke rising from the ground. I couldn't envision a giant airplane crashing in our remote part of the world and presumed it was an equipment blowup.

Trying to get to the source of the smoke, I joined dozens of others in pickup trucks who told me a plane had crashed. Like the others, I kept circling the area until it dawned on me to go to the source of all local knowledge, the Grines Brothers' Garage in nearby Shanksville.

Sure enough, the Grines boys had watched the plane and informed me that it was surely hijacked because they heard about a 911 cell phone call from the plane.

I rushed back to the scene, but too late, the road was blocked. We've done nothing now for the past two days but talk about the tragedy of the downed plane and how it found our little hamlet.

A good friend, farmer Joe Klotz with his wonderful wife, Janie, lives on Lambertsville Road about a half-mile from the crash. When the explosion rocked his house, Joe rushed to the ghastly crash site. From the hill above, he looked down on the horrible scene. Joe couldn't look for long and turned away.

He told me of a strange coincidence. Friends of his, Kathy and Jack Blades, have a beautiful cabin sitting in the woods only about 350 feet from the wreckage. Joe was greatly concerned because Kathy's husband, Jack, had just survived 21 days in intensive care in Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Suffering from gallstones and pancreatitis, Jack had just yesterday returned to Montefiore Hospital when the giant plane created a monstrous crater in front of their cabin. Kathy and her son Michael were very shook up and must have wondered when their troubles would cease.

As Loretta was getting out of her car at home, she felt the vibration of the crash and heard the sounds of things rattling around her. She heard sirens blaring but had been listening to the car radio, was aware of what was happening in New York and Washington and began to suspect the entire country was under attack. Her only connection to the outside world was her car radio, complicated by having no cell phone reception in our valley.

When I finally made the 4 miles home, my dear wife was in a state of near panic. Having phoned earlier that I was on my way home, she worried that, being late, I was in trouble. She set out hurriedly to the Lambertsville Road, only to meet me in the first mile.

We have three children who work in Manhattan, and we couldn't remember how close to the World Trade Center their offices were located. Our cell phone was useless because New York was not answering.

Since we had no electricity or water, we decided to proceed to the location of our customary Tuesday bridge game. Imagine, playing bridge while New York and Washington burn.

I was just looking for a way for Loretta to relax, but I chose the wrong game. It didn't do much good. She broke into tears at the table and couldn't keep her eyes off the TV. It wasn't only concern for our kids; Loretta was shattered by all that had happened.

Her sorrow hurt deep in her chest. It reflected her concern for the lost people in New York and Washington, the doomed passengers in the hijacked planes and the intense pain and sorrow that had spread across the land.

We've been getting calls from all over the United States and even England worrying whether we survived the crash of the hijacked plane which "went down near Shanksville."

I didn't realize how many family and friends would remember the name of this small town, but now it's surely emblazoned in America's memory. Many will forever tie Shanksville in their minds to this tragic plane crash.

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