On this 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001
I remember 9/11.
It was Tuesday morning. I was in Montana, stationed with the 341st Space Wing at Malmstrom AFB. We were in the second day of a wing-wide exercise.
At 6 o’clock that morning, I came into the battle staff to start my 12-hour shift as public affairs representative to the commander. It was going to be a day filled with various exercise scenarios and long periods of tedium.
Not much was going on after the change-over briefing. Everyone was waiting for the scenarios to begin.
Shortly after 8:45 someone from the adjoining support battle staff came in and told us to turn on the news. A plane had just struck the World Trade Center. The battle staff director did.
We saw coverage of the clear blue New York City sky. We also saw its iconic skyline marred by smoke billowing from one of the towers.
We all sat stunned and in disbelief.
I thought how could anyone not see such a large building on such a beautiful day.
People began calling their offices and families to tell them what was unfolding.
The live coverage kept unfolding before us. The assumption was this was some type of accident. Shortly after 9 a.m., I noticed the second plane slide into the screen. It came from right to left and was momentarily hidden by the towers. Nobody else seemed to see it, certainly not the broadcasters.
The second fireball erupted at 9:03 from the second tower.
This was no accident, I thought.
Everyone in the battle staff now knew America was being attacked.
And it didn’t end. Approximately 30 minutes later, another plane struck the Pentagon.
What was going on?
A lieutenant colonel sitting in front of me knew I had an upcoming assignment to the Pentagon. He turned to me and said rhetorically, “Do you still want to go to the Pentagon?”
Then the news reported a plane crashing in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Again, what was going on?
The base went into lockdown. No one came on, no one left. Everyone began refocusing their work to support whatever the future had in store for us.
The rest of my day consisted of preparing my commander for media interviews. Eventually, he turned that responsibility over to me. Requirements of the job and from higher headquarters demanded his time.
It was a busy day of answering media queries and conducting on-camera interviews.
After almost 16 hours, I finally came home. There was a voicemail on my answering machine.
“I know you’re probably at work…,” the voice of my mother came through the phone. She was crying. No mother wants her son in a war.
I will always remember 9/11.