9/11/01 – Still Clear in His Mind Today

donald's story 9.11

On the eve of September 11, 2001, Donald Whitehead was on a plane to Indiana. He worked in Washington, D.C. as the Executive Director for the National Coalition for the Homeless. The following day he was expected to be the Keynote Speaker at the Indiana Coalition for the Homeless Conference.

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001 Donald was in his hotel room preparing for his speech. His phone started ringing off the hook from concerned friends and family members who didn’t know he had gone to Indiana.

Donald turned on the TV and watched the live broadcasting of the tragic event. “It was surreal,” said Donald. “Some of the images I saw are still clear in my mind today.”

Life in the United States, especially Washington, D.C., would never be the same.

Flights were grounded and Donald didn’t get back home until almost a week later. “There were National Guards holding M16’s on the corner of the street where my office was located,” said Donald.

Fear overtook the community and law enforcement began cracking down on homelessness. Anyone with a backpack or just hanging out in the street instantly became a potential threat. “People were routinely being swept off the street and having their space violated to make sure they weren’t the next terrorists,” recalled Donald.

He continued to live in Washington, D.C. for another seven years. Although the calamity initially placed doubt in the back of Donald’s mind, he wanted to stay and continue helping those in need. “If there was ever a time to stand by my neighbors’ side, it was now,” declared Donald.

Like Donald, most Americans were horrified that day, but we stood together in the face of adversity. We will never forget the loved ones we lost and we will always remember the brave men and women who gave up their lives to save others.