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I was in Lincoln, Neb., with the Penn State women’s golf team. We were catching a small plane early that morning from Lincoln to Kansas City for our next flight. We were supposed to have flown home on Sept. 10, but the tournament was delayed and we got to the airport just as the door was closing at our gate. They refused to let us board and we were then forced to get a room at an airport hotel and fly out early the next morning, Sept. 11, 2001.

I remember sitting in the plane and looking out the window as we flew from Lincoln to Kansas City en route back to State College, thinking to myself what a beautiful day to fly, not a cloud in the sky.

We landed in Kansas City at about 8 a.m. Our next flight out was 9 a.m. We boarded the flight and made our way down the tarmac. We sped up to almost take-off speed, but the plane quickly slowed to a stop. The captain announced that we were headed back to the gate; they would not let us fly to Philadelphia. We had no idea that the World Trade Center had been hit.

We deplaned and headed back in the airport. It was not long before we learned what had happened. The airport was full of passengers, planes were grounded and no one knew what was going to happen. I decided we better make a plan, that flying was not going to be an option.

I called a rental car company and reserved a 15- passenger van to drive the rest of the way home. I was told that I could not take the van one way and that I would have to drive it back to Kansas City. I said I would, knowing full well that would be impossible.

It was an adventure, to say the least. We set out on the two-day trip home with only myself as an eligible driver. Patience was wearing thin, as I wanted to listen only to the news, and the van full of 19-year-olds wanted to tune out and listen to music.

Interesting negotiations. I appeased them by stopping at every Dairy Queen along the way.

We hung on the news channel for hours

as we drove east toward Pennsylvania. Gas stations were closing as people rushed to load up on gas. We stayed overnight in Ohio and finished our trip to State College the next day.

It was a trip the team and I will never forget. We were the lucky ones that day; we made it back home, unlike so many people who fell victim to such a hideous crime.

Denise St. Pierre is head coach of the Penn State women’s golf team. She lives in Ferguson Township.

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