Remembering 9-11

 
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Remembering 9-11

I have a pretty horrible memory in general, but I don't think anyone will ever forget exactly where they were on 9/11.

I was on Capitol Hill.  The National Commander was scheduled to testify before the House of Representatives that day, and so there were about 500 Legionnaires in town getting ready for the testimony.  At the time I worked for the Legislative Division, so I was planning on a long day.  And it started with my accompanying the then-National Executive Commiteeman Bill Christofferson from Utah to a meeting with Senator Hatch.  As we were waiting to go into the meeting we saw the breaking news that a plane had hit the WTC.

At the time Bill and I assumed it was a plane that somehow lost control.  Granted in hindsight it seems like it had to be terrorism, but it was on such a grand scope that we couldn't envision it.  And so in the midst we went into our meeting with Senator Hatch.

Now the Senator is a great guy, and awesome to have a meeting with.  He's also a former boxer and a tough guy, but he's not very tall.  So when a bunch of guys burst into our meeting and grabbed him, they literally lifted him up.  He was gone without us having the slightest clue what was going on.  As we exfiltrated from the office we saw the video of the second plane, and it was clear what was happening.

When we exited the Senate Office Buildings we decided to head over to where the Commander was supposed to testify, on the House side.  We knew by then it would be cancelled obviously, but wanted to link up with the others.  As we were walking behind the Capitol Building, sirens went off and people started running down the stairs and out of the building in a panic.  I assume that there must have been some sort of notification inside, probably about the Shanksville plane headed that way.  If you haven't seen those stairs, they are pretty steep, and people in a panic were basically tumbling down them.

Mr. Christofferson told me that "You can run if you want to son, I'm too old for running."  I declined the extra PT and continued walking with him.

Eventually everyone went back to our hotel near Union Station and watched it on TV.  Just hundreds of Legionnaires and thousands of others who had stopped in to watch it on TV.  We had seen smoke coming from across the river, from the Pentagon as it would turn out.  And all sorts of stories were percolating, one in particular that turned out to be false about a car bomb at the State Department had me wondering how I would get out of the city.

I was still in the Guard at this time, with about 1 week left on my enlistment.  My plan was to get out and finish up law school, which I had just started a few weeks earlier.  My Guard unit was in Leesburg, VA, about 30 miles outside of DC, and the home of the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, an FAA facility.  Somehow word was filtering through the unit that we might be called up on a volunteer basis to provide security for the facility.  Knowing I wasn't going to be doing anything in DC (since clearly all lobbying was done for a few days) and because I didn't have a family I decided to start out towards the Leesburg Armory.  Again, wasn't very well thought out on my part, but I had resolved to just walk there.  

And walk I did for the most part, because traffic in DC was not moving.  Getting across the river to Virginia was nuts.  At one point while walking I actually passed Past National Commander Ray Smith.  Thinking that once they got clear of the immediate vicinity it might clear up, I took him up on his offer of a ride.  It gave me some rest from walking, but I realized after a little bit that foot traffic was still passing us.

So, I got out and walked.  All told it took me about 12 hours and by the time I got there they had shut the facility and all air traffic down anyway.  So it was a bit of a moot walk.

Little did I know then that I would end up getting out of the Guard, and then two years later would rejoin the exact same unit and deploy to Afghanistan.  

A person born on 9-11 would be eligible for enlistment now.  

Posted in the burner | 2 comments
 
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I was at my desk, when a co-worker who had the news on the computer said “A small plane hit the World Trade Center.” I had flown a small plane around the Trade Center the previous June, in VFR. It was a Cessna Skyhawk 172. 9/11 was VFR all the way. I said
“ No way.” I remembered the 1993 attack. I said “Terrorist attack. Must be.” The boss had left early, and caught the last PATH train out of WTC for a deal in New Jersey. He didn’t get back to Manhattan for three days; he stayed with his Mom in Morristown, until he could get back. My wife and I went to the Red Cross on 9/11 in the afternoon, to give blood, but they told us they didn’t need it. That told us how bad it was. Our Church had a volunteer team there the next night, at St Paul’s chapel, helping the recovery teams. My wife cooked, and I handed out the first aid supplies and boots that came from all over the East Coast. Who could ever forget that day.

I was at my desk, when a co-worker who had the news on the computer said “A small plane hit the World Trade Center.” I had flown a small plane around the Trade Center the previous June, in VFR. It was a Cessna Skyhawk 172. 9/11 was VFR all the way. I said
“ No way.” I remembered the 1993 attack. I said “Terrorist attack. Must be.” The boss had left early, and caught the last PATH train out of WTC for a deal in New Jersey. He didn’t get back to Manhattan for three days; he stayed with his Mom in Morristown, until he could get back. My wife and I went to the Red Cross on 9/11 in the afternoon, to give blood, but they told us they didn’t need it. That told us how bad it was. Our Church had a volunteer team there the next night, at St Paul’s chapel, helping the recovery teams. My wife cooked, and I handed out the first aid supplies and boots that came from all over the East Coast. Who could ever forget that day. Incidentally, I belong to New York Post 2001, 9/11 Memorial.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.