On this 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001


I remember 9/11.

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Photo illustration courtesy of PEO Soldier.

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.

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It’s 9/11


It’s the eighth anniversary of 9/11. I’m in the Pentagon. Worried? No. Saddened by this anniversary? Yes.

It’s hard to believe eight years have gone by. People always remember where they were and what they were doing when historic events happen. My parents’ generation remembers clearly where they were when they heard of President Kennedy’s assassination. For me, it’s 9/11. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.

I was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. The base was in the midst of an exercise. I had the day shift for public affairs in the battle staff. The morning was quiet. People were getting up to speed, waiting for the scenarios to begin. CNN was playing on the big television screen with news of Ahmad Shah Massoud’s assassination in Afghanistan. No one was paying attention.

A breaking news alert came on stating a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. I figured it was a small plane. When CNN showed live coverage of the smoke pouring out of a tower, I noticed how blue and clear the sky was. Thought to myself how could the pilot not see the building in front of him?

While watching the coverage, I noticed a small dark object come from the right of the screen. It moved rapidly towards the World Trade Center. Shortly afterwards, a fireball erupted from the tower. The second plane struck.

“This is no accident,” I said to the folks sitting next to me. Right in front of my eyes I was witnessing the worst terrorist attack on the United States. I went to my office and e-mailed some friends to say the World Trade Center had been struck by two aircraft. We needed to pray.

Returning to the battle staff, everyone was now riveted by the horrific events unfolding before us. When news came of the Pentagon being struck, we started thinking what’s next? I was two months away from taking a new assignment at the Pentagon to work on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office. A lieutenant colonel sitting in front of me – and who knew of my assignment – turned around and asked, “So, do you still want to go to the Pentagon?”

We were stunned when we saw a tower implode. The second tower imploded later. It was too hard to believe. What was happening?

The rest of the day was hectic. Media were calling the office. They wanted to know what the base’s response to the crisis was. I worked until late that night conducting interviews with Great Falls media. This was the first time I’d ever done on-camera interviews. Even a Canadian television outlet came down for a comment.

Two months later. I arrived in Washington and went to the Pentagon. The damaged section had been removed. The ugly gash looked like a cake with a piece cut out. People were coming to the Pentagon to pay their respects, many leaving flowers.

Eight years later, the damage to the Pentagon has been fixed. The memories remain.