September 11th 2001 I had the good fortune of wearing the uniform. Still 8 years from retirement, I was also fortunate to be tucked away in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee, as an instructor at the Noncommissioned Officers Academy.
As I stood with my brothers and sisters in arms watching the world fall apart seemingly around us, it struck me and just about everybody standing there, we were living through the most pivotal moment in our history. Our personal history and surely our military history had just taken a 90 degree turn. As cliche as it sounds, life was never the same again.
Our procedures changed, our curriculum changed, our incoming students changed.
13 years later I’m still riveted by the stories and pictures and documentaries that play on this day. But on that day, on September 11th 2001, I can still remember watching the little TV in my testing office as the reports came in about a plane hitting the Twin Towers. The conjecture was flying on the Today Show about how or why it happened, then it wasn’t. The second plane ended all that.
I’m not sure who said it, maybe then TSgt Don Felch, but someone said, “We’re under attack!”
90 degrees. It was as sudden as that.
I remember most of the people standing there, Don Felch, Mark Lane, Jerry Bivins, Mitch Lollar, Jon Hawk, Mike Smeltzer, and a few others. I remember heading home the next day after standing guard all night because someone thought they may be coming for the nerds next. I remember sitting in complete silence in front of the TV all the next day with my then roommate Chris Morin, now a father and still an Officer, not believeing a thing I was seeing. All have gone on to full military careers and most have since joined me in retirement.
The rallying cry that has become the norm for September 11th is Always Remember, Never Forget.
I wonder, is it possible to forget a day like today? With our high speed lives of moving from one huge experience to the next at a dizzying pace, is it possible?
I remember where I was and who I was with. We all have a story from that day I imagine.
Always Remember Never Forget
Great post Frank. I was cooking in my kitchen, preparing for a catering job, watching the Today Show. It’s impossible to forget the horror.
I was a stay at home mom of a first grader and a four year old. I had scheduled a carpet cleaning for Sept. 11th, and the night before we had moved the couches into the middle of the living room. That morning as the carpet cleaning guy arrived the first plane hit the tower. We sat together on the arm of the couch and watched in disbelief, two total strangers sharing a very significant moment in time. The rest of the day played out strangely, living relatively close to New York I debated going to school to pick up my son, I didn’t because I figured he was probably as safe there as with me as they had locked down the school. At pick up, I stood and talked to the other moms about husbands they worried about and how the ferries to New York had been turned back away from the city. Phone lines had problems and it was hard to contact people to find out if they were ok. I had cousins who were flight attendants who were diverted to Canada. One of the most strange memories I have was the silence in the days following because the planes were grounded it was an eerie silence! As everyone says I will never forget!
I was running late, as usual, trying to get out of a hotel room in Kingsport, Tennessee. I was watching the today show & just stopped. Somehow I managed to leave & get to my first sales call. I watched on a tiny little black & white tv in a mental health center (I was selling mental health products then) one of the towers fall. All I could think was I need to get home. So I quickly made my sales calls & headed home. I remember huddling on my couch that night talking to my mother watching all the news. At some point during the day I was able to check in with friends and family that were in the DC & NYC area. All were ok. At some point I received a call from a dear friend & she started to tell me about her uncle. She then started crying. As I waited to hear more, I thought to myself I checked on everyone – everyone I knew & they knew were safe. Well I did not account for anyone being on one of the planes. My dear friend’s uncle was on the plane that went down in Shanksville, PA. We will never forget.
I had just gotten married and moved to Nashville. Our tv had not been fully set up and had one fuzzy but watchable channel. I remember that the Internet was slow, and I thought maybe the cord had gotten jiggled (I think the cord was still above ground at that point). I got a sales call and told the guy that I didn’t have time to talk (I was getting ready for work at my new library job). He said, “Oh, are you watching the news about the World Trade Centers collapse?” I lied and said, “yes” since I didn’t want to sound ignorant. I hung up and quickly turned to my one fuzzy channel and watched in disbelief. I had to go to work, but everyone was in shock and all we talked about with each other and the patrons that came in was about what had happened. For us who are from a slightly younger generation, this will be our day which will live in infamy.
I was home from work that morning with a sinus infection and getting ready to visit my doctor. Later that day, my Mom drove me to have my bridal portraits taken – it was three weeks before our wedding – and
I have never liked those pictures. I will never forget that heavy, shell-shocked feeling wondering what was next. We nervously traveled to New England for our honeymoon and experienced all the heightened airport security procedures. Our country started bombing Afganistan during our trip. I will never forget.
I was at work that day. Had been there since 7:30am. We were getting the gossip and the strange tellings of what people thought was happening. Many of those around me were using words like “war”. We didn’t have access to the tv and I had no idea of what to believe. My first thoughts were for my brother. He had gotten out of the army a few years earlier and had served in Desert Storm, so now I worried that he’d go back in.
Since I didn’t have access to real time info, I had no idea about the other flights they were tracking. My mom did though. My mom knew that my uncle, Andrew Garcia, was flying back to San Fransisco that morning out of Newark. She called my dad and told him to check on his sister.
Around 10:45am looked up and saw my mom. Surprised to see her at my work, I instantly knew something was terribly wrong. This is when I found out that uncle was on Flight 93.
Sitting at home, I was in shock and slightly numb, finally getting to see the day play out on tv. I mourned with my family, with my friends, and with my country. I’m grateful that we now know the story and the courage of those 40 passengers on Flight 93 and I feel tremendous pride. However, I’ve never admitted this before, but on that day, at that moment, I felt guilt. Guilt for thinking about my loss. Guilt for the relief I felt that there wasn’t footage of my family member suffering. Guilt that I didn’t have to witness him die.
That’s what I remember most about that day.
Loved this post Fran! I was at school as the Principal and gathered the staff in one of the classrooms to watch the news coverage; it was hard to comprehend at first and so emotional for us all…our lives all changed on that day as you clearly identified.