Former Marquette Mayor recalls ‘horror’ of 9/11

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 1:09 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Former Marquette Mayor Jerry Irby is remembering the ‘horror’ of the 9/11 terrorist attack just one day before its 20th anniversary.

The morning of September 11th, 2001, Irby and the former Marquette City Attorney were down in Kalamazoo at a Michigan Municipal League (MML) conference.

As the conference was underway, Irby recalls someone interrupting to say one of the World Trade Center towers had been hit with a plane. A few minutes later, the same report came again, this time for the other tower.

“Right then we knew we were being attacked. The United States of America was being attacked,” says Irby. “And that was the first time, in my memory, of being attacked on our soil.”

Irby and the attorney were stuck in Kalamazoo because all airports and car rental businesses were shut down, including Sawyer International Airport in Gwinn.

In the aftermath of the attack, the two men spent the night away from home and family.

“It was a profound feeling of vulnerability when we were sitting there in Kalamazoo not able to get home,” recalls Irby.

An MSP Lieutenant drove to Kalamazoo to bring the two back to Marquette the next day.

Irby served in the United States Air Force for 4 years. He says with military background, he always feels ‘on guard’.

“If I would have been called up, [if the U.S. had] said ‘OK we need to get our military together’, there’d been no doubt in my mind I would have gone back.”

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