TERROR FELT HERE Motorists panicked in Vermillion Tuesday evening after rumors spread through the community that the East Coast terrorist attacks that occurred earlier in the day would cause a gasoline shortage and drive prices up to $5 per gallon. Long queues of vehicles surrounded every gas pump at Pump 'N Pak. Similar scenes were played out at every other gas station in the city. The rumor proved to be unfounded. By by David Lias Wess Pravecek of Vermillion received the best phone call of her life Tuesday.
It was from her daughter, Jessica Meyers, calling from her workplace in New York City to report that she was okay.
Audrey and Joe Gillen of Vermillion also breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday after learning that their son, Major Jeffrey Gillen, is safe.
Major Gillen, a 1982 graduate of Vermillion High School and a former officer with the Vermillion Police Department, is a bioenvironmental engineer in the U.S. Air Force.
He is currently assigned to the Joint Forces in the Pentagon. He was able to contact his wife, Cheri, by cell phone at 10 a.m. Tuesday shortly after the Pentagon was evacuated. The couple resides in Stanton, VA.
Pravecek had plenty of reason to be worried. Her daughter and son-in-law, Matt Meyers, live on Staten Island.
Matt is the son of the Mark and Pat Meyers of Vermillion. Jessica and Matt are both graduates of Vermillion High School. They were married last June, and moved to New York in August 2000.
Jessica works for America Online at Rockefeller Plaza, located approximately six miles from the World Trade Center. Matt is a graduate student at New York University.
Each workday, Jessica takes the Staten Island Ferry across Hudson Bay to catch a subway in Manhatten.
"Where she catches her subway to go to work is right there at the twin towers," Pravecek said, "so she had been by there between five and 10 minutes before the first plane hit the building.
"It just made me absolutely sick," she added.
Pravecek said her daughter called her shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday.
"She said she passed by the building, got on her train, went to work, which takes about five minutes or so," Pravecek said, "and when she got off the train, everybody was saying, 'Oh my God, a plane just hit the tower.' By the time she walked into her building, that's when the second plane hit the other tower."
Pravecek said her daughter immediately called her. "She was quite shaken," she said, "to think that she had been that close and that lucky that she had not been there."
Pravecek went to a staff meeting Tuesday morning, and heard news on her car radio of the other plane crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
"I tried to get a hold of Matt, because he was still at home, because his classes weren't until later in the day," she said. "I went to the staff meeting for awhile, and I wasn't able to stand it anymore, so I left a little early, and was able to reach Matt."
Matt told her that Jessica had left her office and walked two blocks to the office of Mary Lynn Berntson, the daughter of Lester and Helen Berntson, Vermillion, who is Pravecek's first cousin.
"Jess went to her office because she knew then that she wasn't able to get back to Staten Island because of the cut off of transportation," Pravecek said. "She spent some time there until Mary Lynn's office suggested that the staff head for home."
Jessica and Mary Lynn had to walk approximately two miles to reach Mary Lynn's home in Gramercy Park.
"There walk home, Jess said, was pretty interesting," Pravecek said. "It was kind of surreal in a way, because people were quiet except for the sirens and hubbub of activities."
There were armed soldiers in different areas. They had to walk by the Empire State Building, and access to that structure was completely blocked.
Pravecek said later in the day, cell phone service, which had been overloaded in New York, finally was up and running. That made it easier for the mother and daughter to stay in touch.
She admits that's she's been concerned about her daughter and son-in-law living in New York.
"We have that luxury of living in a warm, safe, trusting part of the country, and of course we always hear the worst about the big cities," Pravecek. "I think Jess and Matt have been very comfortable there, because the people have been friendly, and it's been quite an experience for them."
Pravecek admits that she hopes that when Matt is done with his schooling, they decide to make their home someplace else. New York City, she said, is a place that a terrorist is most likely to hit because it's the financial capital of the nation.
"My children may be adults, but they're still my kids," she added.
Pravecek was busy on the phones Tuesday, talking not only with her daughter, but friends and relatives scattered across the country.
Pravecek and her daughter found time Tuesday to also check the welfare of other Vermillion natives living on the East Coast, including Mitch Olson of Survivor fame, who lives in Hoboken, NJ, and Elizabeth Egan, daughter of Marty Egan, who just recently moved to New York to study theatre.
"Obviously, I was at work all day (Tuesday), but I wasn't with work at all today," she said. "I think all day I had that feeling, after the initial hits, of wondering if they (the terrorists) were done yet. I guess I didn't really want to go without talking with her about every hour, and that's what we did."
After viewing Tuesday's carnage on television, Pravecek can only feel grateful that her daughter survived the terrible day unscathed.
"I always tell my family that I love them on a regular basis, and I always do," she said. "But this is scary stuff. This is the stuff that you say can't happen here, and it just did. This is a tragic, tragic time for everybody right now."