[[All these opinions are my own, and not necessarily those of my employers]]
September 11th 2001.
It’s one of those days that we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news about the Towers and the airplanes, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It’s like JFK’s or MLK’s assassinations for those born in the 1940s, or Pearl Harbor for the Greatest Generation. And we remember the changes that followed.
On Sept 11th 2001, I was on my way to work. I had been out of the Army for a year and three months at the time. I was driving south on I-35. I had just checked on a crew of my telephone equipment installers who were doing some work on the Main Distributor Frame in the Southwestern Bell switch office in Round Rock, Texas. I turned on the radio to hear the ‘JB and Sandy’ morning show out of Austin and instead of an earful of humor and music, I got the news: Chaos in Manhattan. I got a pager code summoning all my company’s employees out of the telephone company buildings and back to our own offices. An airliner crashed into the Pentagon; another, into a field in Pennsylvania.
It seems traffic was particularly bad that day. When I got to the company’s offices in south Austin, nearly the whole management team and half the Installers were crowded around a TV watching a smoking hole in the side of one of the Twin Towers in Manhattan. And then we saw the airplane hit the second tower. We saw the one of the President’s aides walk up and whisper something in his ear while he was reading to a classroom full of young children. A few minutes later we saw the President make a statement about America having been attacked. We heard minute by minute accounts of New York’s Bravest (FDNY) and New York’s Finest (NYPD) rescuing as many as they could from the World Trade Center Towers. And then towers collapsed, first one, then the other.
The rest of that day and for probably two or three days after I was in shock. The unthinkable had happened. Why hadn’t the crew or the passengers of any flight but the one that crashed in Pennsylvania challenged the hijackers? Until the first two planes hit the buildings, no one thought that hijackers would use airplanes as weapons.
When I got home from work that day, I remember holding my 18-month-old son while I prayed. I remember knowing that one day would go back into the Army and once again do my part for Constitution and Country, for Old Glory, for my classmates, for the Long Gray Line, for all my fellow citizens, for all the civilized peoples of the world.
Those airplanes crashing into buildings were the first salvos we recognized in a war that actually started in 1993 with the first bombing attempt on the World Trade Center. We didn’t connect the dots with embassy bombings in Africa, USAF barracks attacked in Saudi Arabia, the USS Cole (a small US Navy ship) attacked. Maybe the war actually started in 1979 when Iranian militants siezed the US Embassy in Tehran and held a few dozen US diplomatic staffers hostage for 444 days.
September 12th, 2001. All air traffic was grounded for several days. All contractors were locked out of the telephone switch offices for the same amount of time that air traffic was grounded. And then came the anthrax packages to Congress and the Senate and all manner of new airport, infrastructure and mail security.
September 11th 2012.
Just another day at the office. Well, there were protests in Egypt and Lybia. Old Glory was taken down and burned by militants in many countries. The black flag of al Qaeda/ISIS was waved by those who burned the Star-Spangled Banner. And then came the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Seven hours later came another attack. No Navy ship sent a Sea Stallion helicopter with Marines. No USAF F-16s swooped in to strafe. No A-Teams, or Seal Teams, or Ranger Battalions came the aid of US Ambassador Chris Stephens and Sean Smith. Former Navy Seals Tyron Woods and Glen Doherty and some others marched to the sound of the gunfire, attempting to rescue them. Ambassador Stephens, Smith, Woods and Doherty all died that night at the hands of militants calling themselves Ansar al-Sharia.
Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan rally against ISIS and a council of Imams in the UK write a fatwa against the Islamic State.
I’m not going to editorialize much today. I just wanted to recount my memories of September 11th 2001 and cite some of the facts about September 11th 2012.
If you want, share your memories of Sept 11th with us in the comments.
Thank you for reading.