[Geysers] 9/11 geyser memory

Lynn Stephens lstephens2006 at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 14 22:41:39 PDT 2011

(MODERATOR: please use discretion. If you feel this is inappopriate, please don't post.)
(TOM AND GENEAN: You may include this in the October issue of the Sput, if you feel it is appropriate.)

I was also in Yellowstone on 9/11/2001.  My logbook shows that I saw an eruption of White Dome at 09:06.  The next note in my logbook is "full security alert" and a telephone number.  I was at Great Fountain when I heard over the scanner that the Park had been placed on top level security alert, but I didn't hear a reason for the alert.  The next note in my logbook is "elk bugling"--one of the traditional sounds of fall.  Then I began to hear rumors from visitors and tour guides about airplanes and the Twin Towers.  The first rumors I heard mentioned possible death tolls of 50,000 people, so I had difficulty believing the rumors.  As Andrew noted, it was a sunny day with clear blue sky and warm temperatures, so a tragedy of that magnitude was simply unimaginable.
I waited until Great Fountain had finished its eruption so I could post the next prediction, then drove to the Lower Ham's parking lot, arriving about 11 am.  A tour guide from Jackson was sitting in the parking lot listening to the radio in his vehicle and confirmed for me that airplanes had hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  I stayed in the parking lot, trying to glean additional information about the terrorist attacks until I walked to the overlook to watch the 12:12 eruption of Beehive. 
I also avoided the television in the Bear Pit.  However, I did see some footage on the computer monitor when I went into the Old Faithful Visitor Center that evening to transcribe logbooks, do the Old Faithful predictions until dark, and answer visitor questions using the "ice cream" window.  Many of the questions I got that evening related to airplane flights--would theirs home depart as scheduled, or would it be cancelled.  And, if flights were being cancelled, how long would the cancellations last.  I felt quite ineffectual that evening since I simply did not have answers for people.  
Over the next few days I met several individuals who were making unscheduled trips to Yellowstone.  In some cases their flights had been cancelled so they had rented cars to travel to their destinations and decided to visit Yellowstone on their way.  In other cases cancellation of their flights had left them with extra "vacation" days so they had chosen to spend those days in Yellowstone.
As a side note--My son, Kirk, was married on 9/11/1999.  Kirk and Jen had originally chosen a different date for the wedding, but couldn't get both the church and hotel where they wanted to hold the reception on that date.  When the date was changed to September 11, Kirk said he'd have no problem remembering the date of their anniversary since it was 9-1-1.  After 9/11/2001, he had another reason for not forgetting the date.  They had planned a trip to Paris for their second anniversary, but the trip was cancelled due to the attacks.
I stayed in Yellowstone until September 23, so was isolated from much of the trauma associated with 9/11.  
Lynn Stephens

From: geyserhound at hotmail.com
To: geysers at lists.wallawalla.edu
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2011 13:01:05 -0400
Subject: [Geysers] 9/11 geyser memory

(MODERATOR: please use discretion. If you feel this is inappopriate, please don't post.)
(TOM AND GENEAN: You may include this in the October issue of the Sput, if you feel it is appropriate.)
My memory of 9/11 is:
  The summer of 2001 was my second at Old Faithful, where I worked as a porter at the Inn. I had this day off from work, and as I did on most such days that summer, I was going to spend it in the geyser basins.
  It was a clear, bright, quiet and calm morning in Yellowstone, much like it probably was in New York that fateful day. I headed down to "Lower Ham's," a favorite hangout of geyser gazers, for breakfast. The food counter was quiet when I came in, so I found a table, sat down, and placed an order. A short while later, fellow gazer Lotus Baker saw me and asked if she could join me for breakfast. After we exchanged pleasantries, Lotus then proceeded to tell me that two jetliners had struck the World Trade Center, another had struck the Pentagon, and still another was rumored to have hit the Capitol. Incredulous and dumbstruck, I pressed her for more information, but she knew nothing beyond the brief report she had heard and just passed along to me. After that, conversation at the breakfast table, about the usual things such as the day's predicted geyser activity, wasn't so easy. Keep in mind that this was around 0830 (Mountain time), after the twin towers had collapsed.
  Let's roll forward a few hours, to around noontime or shortly before or thereafter. Myself, along with several other geyser gazers, were up on Geyser Hill. Beehive's Indicator had started, and we were stopping passing visitors and giving them the usual "you might as well stick around, something cool is about to happen, we're going to have a major geyser here in the next twenty minutes" spiel. Eventually, about 50 or so people were gathered on the front side of Geyser Hill.
  Well, Beehive did its thing. Now, there had been almost no breeze that morning, so it became obvious to all that this was going to be one of those tall, straight-as-a-poker eruptions of Beehive, you know, the kind that make viewers on the Geyser Hill side crane their necks, the ones that tower over the whole south end of the Upper Basin. What I remember best is that while this eruption was in progress, no one on Geyser Hill said a WORD. Usually, when Beehive's eruption starts, it is met with great enthusiasm from visitors: "Holy mackerel!" "What on Earth!?" "This is way better than Old Faithful!" "Way cool!"....you get the picture. But not this time. All I remember hearing was the heavy water hitting the sinter, with the terrific noise of falling rain, when Beehive's eruption bega, and the jet-engine roar after the water column had reached maximun height. Everyone on the boardwalk was quiet and solemn. I think that many of these people were aware of what had taken place that morning, more than half a continent away. There wasn't even any applause when the eruption concluded, like there so often is. The crowd then dispersed quietly.
  I can remember being in something of a mental fog that day. It wasn't wasn't one of my more focused days of geyser gazing. More than anything else, I felt a sense of sadness over what had happened, and also a sense of anger that something like this could have taken place. The general mindframe around the whole Old Faithful area, among visitors and employees alike, seemed detached and subdued as well. Later that day, the hotel company commandeered an employee's satellite dish, and set up a TV set in the Bear Pit cocktail lounge at the Inn, and kept it there for the next several days. I did not once put foot in that room while it was there. I'm probably better off for not having seen any footage.
  There aren't many people who can claim that they were out watching geysers on that fateful day, but I was one of them. There are no doubt many others who were in Yellowstone on 9/11, and have more vivid or more detailed memories of what transpired that morning. This is simply how I choose to remember it.
Andrew Hafner

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