Sept. 11, 1922: Dora Pinkham, a Republican schoolteacher and bookkeeper from Fort Kent, becomes the first woman elected to the Maine House of Representatives. Her election takes place a scant two years after the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women the right to vote.

The Protestant candidate’s victory seems all the more remarkable in light of the fact that she will represent a House district that is overwhelmingly Catholic and of French-Canadian origin, in an age rife with Ku Klux Klan agitation and other sectarian strife.

Pinkham loses a re-election bid in 1924, but in 1926 she and Katherine C. Allen, a farmer and Republican from Hampden, become the first women elected to the Maine Senate, where Pinkham serves two terms.

Sept. 11, 2001: In Portland, al-Qaida terrorists Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari take a 6 a.m. flight from Portland International Jetport to Boston, where they board American Airlines Flight 11 to New York, use box cutters to seize control of the plane with three other hijackers and crash it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, collapsing it and causing the deaths of more than 1,600 people.

Portland Jetport surveillance video from Sept. 11, 2001, shows two men, identified by authorities as Mohamed Atta, right, and Abdulaziz Alomari, center, passing through airport security to board a commuter flight to Boston for American Airlines Flight 11, one two jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center. Portland Police Department

The hijacking is part of a larger plot involving three other hijacked passenger jets. One of those planes strikes and flattens the trade center’s South Tower. One plows into the Pentagon in Virginia. Passengers overcome the hijackers in the last plane, and it crashes in a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard.

The crashes kill 2,977 victims, inflict about 25,000 injuries and cause about $10 billion worth of damage. They also become the catalyst for America’s longest war. The United States invades Afghanistan in the fall because that country sheltered the plot’s organizer, Osama bin Laden, and his international guerrilla group, called al-Qaida. Nineteen years later, American forces are still fighting there.

Among the details that emerge from the massive investigation of what come to be known as the 9/11 attacks, the FBI and police learn that Atta and al-Omari spent the night at the Comfort Inn in South Portland before leaving for Boston.

Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood says Portland International Jetport surveillance video clearly shows Atta’s face there.

Atta had picked al-Omari up at the Milner Hotel in Boston on Sept. 10. They drove in a rented car to South Portland, where they arrived at the motel at 5:43 p.m. Financial records and bank video show that they made two ATM withdrawals in Portland, and witnesses saw them at a Walmart store and in a Pizza Hut parking lot.

What is less clear is why they went to the Portland area at all.

Investigators later consider several theories, including the hijackers trying to gauge whether they are being followed, keeping an appointment with another person involved in the plot, using Portland’s airport because its security checks might be less stringent than those used in Boston, or using Portland to avoid getting stuck in morning traffic on the way to Boston’s Logan International Airport.

A federal commission investigating the 9/11 attacks releases its report on July 22, 2004. Even by then, the commission professes not to know why two of the hijackers went to Portland before participating in the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil.

“Interrogation of detainees has produced no solid explanation for the trip,” the report states.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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