Monday was Patriot Day, remembering the nearly 3,000 lives lost that fateful Sept. 11, 2001.
Most of us remember exactly what we were doing that day when we heard the news that the first plane had flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. For many, it was the catalyst for joining the military. Others of us were already on active duty at the time.
I was the marketing and public affairs noncommissioned officer for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the time. I was on my way to work when the radio cut out and began reporting the news. Moments later, my wife called me to let me know what was going on.
When I arrived at the Internal Revenue Service building where our offices were located, the news was already on and the few Marines who had arrived before I did were already posted around the TV. We watched in horror as the second plane flew into the South Tower, and with growing anger as the Pentagon was hit by yet another.
The anger mounted — as did the pride in our fellow Americans — when the news of United Airlines Flight 93 came out, going down in Pennsylvania as the passengers refused to allow the terrorists to use them to kill fellow Americans. Their heroism saved the lives of an unknown number of Americans, because it isn’t sure where the plane was headed. The White House? The U.S. Capitol?
It wasn’t long after we received notice that all federal buildings were to be evacuated. My wife, worried sick something else would happen, called me repeatedly. My commander, however, being the hard-charging Marine, decided we would stay and continue our work.
That probably wasn’t a good decision, as about an hour later a federal police officer came walking in and told us to vacate. My commander said, “We’re Marines, we’re not going anywhere!” The officer said, “If you don’t, you’re going to prison.”
Needless to say, we vacated the building and went home, where we tirelessly watched the news for the next several days until we were allowed back at work.
It is now 16 years later, but no matter how my memory fails me at times, that is one memory that will never fade. I still remember the shock and anger I felt that day.
It would be several years before I would deploy in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, but when I did, that memory was still firm in my mind. Some of those I deployed with had been in elementary or middle school when terrorists tried to bring America to its knees, but the memory was still there for them as well.
May we never as a nation forget.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7554.