Mount Rainier’s Tonie Davis remembers where he was during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: working at a law firm in Washington, D.C. He remembers his inability during the tragedy to recall his sister’s phone number to make sure she was OK. That didn’t sit right with him.
“Afterward, thinking about that, I thought I need to do better, make cheat sheets for myself to be more prepared when something happens,” said Davis, now 50.
Like many Prince George’s County residents, Davis said Sept. 11 has changed the way he approaches his surroundings; he has become his family’s go-to person for being prepared in case of an emergency.
Since the tragedy, Davis enrolled in Community Emergency Response Teams, a program run by Prince George’s County’s Office of Emergency Management that provides residents with training, such as first aid and triage. Davis, who discovered the program through a colleague at the law firm where he worked in the District, is now president of the Prince George's County Council of CERT.
Davis encourages his family members to have emergency kits. His mother, who lives in the District, has a duffel bag with a change of clothes, glasses, $30, granola bars and bottled water to get her through at least 24 hours.
“The CERT training has made me stop complaining about our emergency responders and what they can't do and made me focus on what I can do until they get to me,” Davis said. “With the economy the way it is, there are fewer of them and more of us. I truly feel safer for it.”
Davis said residents have become more relaxed over the last 10 years. After the Sept. 11 attacks, if a street light went out, residents were adamant about calling it in, Davis said. Davis said his neighbors are not as vigilant today as they used to be.
“I think time has gone, and wounds have healed, and people are just moving forward and feeling like it's a super country, and it's not going to happen here,” Davis said.
Kobi Manful, 46, of Bowie said on a recent airplane flight he felt like he was a federal Air Marshal doing undercover work on flights because he had to be aware of his surroundings. He said there are things he notices in his community now, such as an unattended bag or package, that he wouldn’t have noticed or reported to authorities before Sept. 11.
“If I don’t do anything, and the package I saw exploded, I would feel guilty or bad about it,” Manful said. “I think we’ve all become police of our own surroundings.”
Parent Pamela Demory, 32, of Hyattsville works in Washington, but said she and family members can reach her 7-year-old daughter, Nia Johnson, and her 5-year-old son, Nazavier Johnson, in case of an emergency.
Nia Johnson has a cell phone inside her backpack that is charged and ready to turn on only in the case of an emergency, and their meet-up place is at Columbia Park Elementary School in Landover.
"We've always had [a plan] regardless. My father was military in the Vietnam War, and he taught us from little kids to always have a plan,” Demory said. “I've always had a contingency plan in case something happened and how to get my kids, where to meet up in case we can't get in contact with each other.”
Erin Winston, 27, of Bowie said she has not changed her lifestyle because of the attacks. She said the media coverage only increased Americans’ fears and she tries not to get wrapped up in television coverage.
“My life hasn’t changed,” Winston said. “I still have to go to work every day, see my family. My friendships haven’t changed. My travel hasn’t changed. I don’t live in fear anywhere.”
Winston said she would speak up if she saw something suspicious but that being aware of surroundings is something that should be happening in all neighborhoods, regardless of the threat of an attack.
“I will say I think the worst thing we can do is live in fear because we’ll always be victims,” Winston said.