Awakened from his slumber by an early-morning phone call, current South Maui Rep. George Fontaine, a former Maui police captain, thought he was “dreaming” when he saw the attack on the World Trade Center on television.
“I got this early-morning phone call from my assistant chief, my boss, I think it was 4 o’clock in the morning,” said the Wailea resident who at the time was commander of the Wailuku Patrol District.
His boss told him to turn on the television and said: “We’re at war.”
Fontaine saw the replay of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center.
“I just sat there in horror as the second plane came in. I was just in complete shock . . . that anyone would be capable of doing that,” said the now 50-year-old.
Fontaine remembered asking himself: “How could this have happened?”
He and his boss stayed on the telephone for five to 10 minutes while watching the events unfold.
“I thought I was dreaming,” he said.
After Fontaine hung up, he called his father in Los Angeles. Fontaine heard a rumor that a plane also was headed for that city.
“He was like surprisingly calm about everything,” Fontaine said of his father, now deceased.
Then the captain headed into work for a busy day that is hard for him to recall in detail 10 years later.
But he said police did check the county’s infrastructure and listened to any details provided by the FBI. Police commanders met to discuss the situation and any other potential dangers.
“We (police) are always able to provide good public service, 9/11 was no different,” he said.
He said a lesson he takes away from the tragedy, and one he hopes that others also take away, is to “always be vigilant.”
With his law enforcement background, Fontaine said he also is focused on public safety while at his current job as a state House representative.
The terrorist attacks on U.S. soil showed that there is a potential for violence to occur anywhere, he added.
“It was an experience that changed my life,” he said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. See story at http://mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/553350/Fontaine–Day-an–experience-that–changed-my-life-.html