My 9/11

united-states-naval-academy-photoShortly before 8:55am on September 11, 2001, I entered my Literature of War course in Sampson Hall at the United States Naval Academy. We were still near the beginning of the semester, the last semester of my college teaching career. The midshipmen looked uncharacteristically confused and unsettled. One of them asked me to turn on the television. They’d heard about some enormous calamity. Soon we were magnetized, almost traumatized, by repeat footage of the initial collision of an aircraft with one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. As the mix of news, conjecture, and wild rumor accumulated, it was suddenly ramped up by news and pictures of another plane blasting into the other tower.
It wasn’t long before we all suspected that our lives had changed dramatically. Our personal lives and our lives as U. S. citizens. These young men and women were processing their futures as junior officers in the United States Navy or Marine Corps. We talked a bit about what was going on. Facts were few. Still, there was something about the mids that impressed me. They were ready, or committed to being ready, for whatever was out there. They would not turn away from their responsibilities. That determination was written on their faces and in their voices. Also, they were smart enough to be afraid. I was proud of them. I still am.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “My 9/11

  1. I was the administrator for multiple government programs in the Keys. When I walked into the Key West office, several people were sobbing. One fellow from New York asked to go home. Other people wanted to leave, too upset to work. My supervisor came in, went into his office and said they could leave, but it would be a vacation day. He said to turn off the radios and television. I remember thinking, “a vacation day?” People in our offices up and down the keys were calling, expecting at least meetings or chances to share grief. That boss of mine was cold as ice. I spent the morning comforting people, hearing their stories, their fears. We had plenty of staff; those who were suffering were not productive anyway. I told them to go home and we’d work out the day as sick or vacation later. The boss caught a glimpse of the television a staff member left on in spite of the order to shut it off. By then, it was disaster beyond comprehension: he went home! He never mentioned 9/11; but he signed the “sick leaves.” I never felt the same about him; I saw his lack of compassion come shining through when the staff sought his leadership. It took a long time to work through the grief as many employees had relatives and friends in the New York area. Bit by bit, normalcy returned. However, the boss never regained the respect he had previously experienced.

  2. I was working in Manhattan across the street from Grand Central Station and I heard the news a plane hit the tower. I thought wow, what a stupid pilot. I quickly realized it was no accident, and soon found myself in a room with 20 other people watching the towers fall before our eyes in real time. Major panic, sadness, fear and anxiety permeated the small room as everyone was in complete shock at what just happened. I walked down to 14th street after work but could not get past the barriers blocking everyone from getting near the scene. Nothing but black smoke and silence – an extreme rarity in NYC. I finally made it home to my 2 cats in my 2-bedroom apartment in Forest Hills, Queens around 11:30pm. Riding the subway was an anxiety-ridden experience in itself. Multiple bomb threats continued in my own building in midtown for the weeks that followed, and finally on Oct. 29, 2001 I hopped a plane and took a long sabbatical in Naples, never to return.

  3. Denise Gallagher Rochford, Naples,Fl.

    I was at my daughter’s home in Cleveland watching the news, when the report came on the air. Immediately, I realized that my two sons were away, one in Hawaii on his honeymoon; the other in Croatia,visiting his in-laws.
    For the rest of the day i was paralyzed,watching television and worrying.about how and when the “boys” would be able to get back to the States.
    The next day dawned and still no word from the travelers.The worrying continued,along with the growing realization of how many people are affected by national disasters,even though they are not personally involved at the actual scene.
    My sons eventually arrived home,but I learned that two of my cousins had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to find transportation back to New Jersey–and another, a Firefighter died in the horrendous fire.
    Every 9/11 I think about that day and remember..and today is no exception.

  4. Anne Marie Drew

    Thanks for this post, Phil. Even though the cast of characters here on the 2nd Deck of Sampson relentlessly changes, the echoes of that piercing September day still fill the hallway. It was my first semester as chair and Charlie Nolan, with characteristic grace, came over to me as we all sat in the dept Library staring at the TV. Quietly, he said, “Anne Marie, you need to find out what we’re supposed to do.”

  5. Ann Weiss

    I will never get over 9/11 and it goes back first, to 1958, on that day, when my dear Mother lost her life at 43 years old to cancer. I was 16 and my two brothers, much younger. On this 9/11, 15 years ago, I woke up early, as I always do, and put on the news and saw what was happening in NYC! I called my daughter Julie, who was working for Smith Barney and asked if she was aware what was happening. She told me that this was her first day home, with her maternity leave, and because of my granddaughter’s birth, on the 19th, her life was saved. Her husband was at Goldman Saks and saw the plane hit the building and ran to the elevator and pushed everyone back on and went down 50 floors. Then they all ran away and Lance ran home and thank G-D, arrived there safely. I will never forget all that happened to so many and its so sad and pathetic why we still can’t have peace in our beautiful world!! One good day at a time!

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