Yesterday, on Patriot Day, we remembered the nearly 3,000 lives lost during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Most of us can still vividly remember exactly where we were and what we were doing the day we woke up to see airplanes flying into the World Trade Center.
Now, 17 years later, we have for the first time — starting today — youth who were born after the attack eligible to enlist in the U.S. military. It amazes me how fast time has flown by since then, as it seems like it happened so recently when my memories of that fateful day pop into my head.
I was still in the Marine Corps and was on my way to work as the marketing and public affairs representative for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Albuquerque, New Mexico when the news broke in over the radio that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Within minutes, my wife was calling me to tell me she was watching it on the news. Once I reached the office, which happened to be in the federal IRS building there, I watched as the second plane hit Tower 2, the third plane hit the Pentagon and then we heard about Flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania.
None of us knew exactly what was going on, but we did know we had been attacked devastatingly on our home ground for the first time Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.
All federal buildings were ordered to be evacuated across the nation, as no one knew if there would be more hijacked planes coming in or where they would hit. Being the gung-ho Marine my commander was, he decided we did NOT need to evacuate because, hey, we were Marines.
He did change his mind, however, when the federal police walked in and told him to let us evacuate or he’d be going to jail. Which was a good thing, because my wife was not happy that I was still in a potential target building hours after the evacuation was ordered. We had barely been married for seven months at the time, so she wasn’t the hardened military spouse then that she is today.
For many of those serving today, the attack — and the videos on all news stations showing radical Muslims around the world celebrating the successful attack on the “Great Satan” — was the catalyst for joining the military. We each remember when we heard about the attack, and we all spent the following days glued to the TV to find out how bad it would turn out to be and who was responsible.
Many of our younger soldiers were too young to really remember why we are still at war against terrorists to this day, and soon we will have troops born after the event. It will be up to us to ensure they never forget what we’re fighting for.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at email@example.com or 254-501-7554.