How did 9/11 affect today’s county officials?

A Payette County Sheriff’s vehicle is seen outside the Payette County Jail in this April 2021 photo. Several county officials share their memories of 9/11’s impact on them as well as how they do their jobs today.

PAYETTE COUNTY — Saturday marks 20 years since the events of Sept. 11, 2001 brought this nation to a grinding halt. Back then, it was hard for many to imagine that a terrorist attack could be accomplished on American soil.

Such was the case for several of the men who now lead local emergency services. Several of them shared their experiences with the newspaper to help mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Following is a sample of their remarks

John Plaza

In an email to the newspaper on Aug. 25, John Plaza, chief of the Payette Police Department, said he was in the middle of preparing for work when he received word of the attacks.

“It was surreal, and really a hard thing to think was really happening, but it was,” Plaza recalled. “It was mind numbing, the devastation and loss of life.”

Jerry Campbell

Over at the Fruitland Fire Department, chief Jerry Campbell recalled being at the city’s shop building when word made its way there.

“It did not affect me in any way as a first responder,” wrote Campbell in an Aug. 25 email. “Just shocked my soul that somebody would actually do something like that.”

Andy Creech

Now-Sheriff Andy Creech recalled being on a call out of town when he heard about the attacks. He also recalled how the incidents took over television and radio for days afterward.

“I worked for [then] Sheriff Barowsky at the Payette County Sheriff’s Office. On that morning, I had been asked to pick up a juvenile from the Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center in Caldwell, Idaho, and transport him back for court. While I was driving, the initial reports of the plane hitting the north tower came across the radio. I remember that the only thing to watch on the TV or listen to on the radio for several days was about the terrorist attack. Air travel was shut down for a long time.”

Noteworthy is that U.S. airspace remained closed following the attacks until Sept. 13, 2001, when stricter airport security checks in place. The 19 attackers smuggled box cutters through security checkpoints at three east coast airports to gain access to the cockpits of the planes involved in the attacks, as noted by history.com.

Local response

Following the events of 9/11, local law enforcement in Payette County has protocols in place to aid in responding to any possible attacks in the area.

“We have our county wide disaster plan to provide and request mutual aid from other departments,” according to Plaza. “This would include law enforcement, fire and EMS. This would include the state emergency management agency and federal resources. We would have a coordinated response for what the disaster was.”

As Creech noted, the way authorities handle possible terrorist activity remains on the forefront of their overall strategy.

“The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have brought about many changes in law enforcement, emergency response agencies, and emergency management,” he wrote. “In addition, the changes created opportunities for training and funding to prepare to combat terrorism in the United States.”

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