Going a little of track off my Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule to write a quick note about this day. In looking back through my blog, I have never written anything about 9/11, even on the requisite five-year incremental anniversaries. I figured I might as well write something today because I am trying to write a bit more frequently, and this post might seem a bit out of place if written tomorrow.
On 9/11/2001, I was at Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, learning how to be a Paralegal Specialist for the Army. It was a day that was slightly out of the ordinary for something as structured as Army training. The previous day, my battle buddy and I, SPC Michael Yopp, missed class because we were busy getting a tour of Fort Jackson because Yopp had just been Soldier of the Month or something for our AIT command. Since you always need a buddy at Army training, I accompanied him on the tour, seeing places that we had already seen many times. It was still nice to get out of class and take some time away from the routine.
Tuesday, 9/11, was supposed to be a make-up day for Yopp and me, and the rest of our class was busy doing “Kitchen Patrol” (KP), helping out in the dining facility. While the rest of our class headed off to perform KP, Yopp and I headed to class to make-up the class that we had missed the previous day. I think we went in because there was a Practical Exercise that we missed; otherwise, I think we would have just been expected to learn from our classmates what we had missed during our off-time.
We were rocking and rolling with our instructor SFC Clark. It was a little more laid back than usual because it was just the two of us, plus I think one of the idiot Charlie TSB students was there trying to make up after yet another failure (possibly SGT Harris?). Anyway, we were quietly working on our PE when CPT Krummenacker (sp?), our AIT Company Commander, came in and told us to head down to the auditorium. In retrospect, he was kind of shaken, but we were totally oblivious as to what had happened at that point.
As we walked down the hall in the orderly fashion to which we had grown accustomed, there was a bit of a logjam at the entrance to the auditorium. One of the offices nearby had the television on, and it was then that I saw the first images of the World Trade Center smoking, shortly after the second plane struck the South Tower, but before either tower had collapsed. It wasn’t until later that I actually saw the videos of the actual collisions, but it was still a striking sight. We didn’t yet know what was happening, and they finally told us when we all were seated in the auditorium.
When they had told us what had happened, I uncontrollably started to cry. I wasn’t sobbing mind you, but the tears came easily and without warning. I had joined the Army the previous August, expecting to serve a long time without threat of a major war sending me into danger. Even as a paralegal specialist, I knew that my time in the Army would now be different. I was pretty amazed that it took another eight years for me to actually end up directly supporting the war in some way, but it was still a powerful moment when CPT K filled us in on what was happening.
There was plenty of folks that would be leaving Fort Jackson within the week to head to their first duty stations, or go back home to their National Guard or Reserve units. The questions were asked, about how they would be affected. At that early stage, nobody really knew anything, and they didn’t know whether or not other attacks would be happening. In the short term, they ended up greatly restricting access to Fort Jackson, and we were subsequently locked down on the post until we graduated the first week of October. Some complaining occurred because classes were going to miss out on the coveted overnight pass — ours included — but in light of the circumstances, we were just being horrible whiners for complaining at such a time.
Yopp, my slightly older battle buddy, a Reservist from Maryland, immediately thought about his civilian job, as he was an architect for the firm that had been doing some renovations on the transportation terminal at the Pentagon. He was actually listed as missing in the aftermath of the attack there, until they realized that he was away at training and not in the building when the attack occurred. Nevertheless, he immediately set about trying to get home, partly to assist in the recovery efforts, but also to make sure all his friends and co-workers were okay. He completed the last three weeks of training over the next few days, and had a friend come pick him up and drive him home, since most flights were still grounded. He returned to work just in time for his Reserve unit, an Military Police battalion, to be activated to perform “homeland defense” missions around the DC area. I still regret that I lost touch with Yopp, but that happens sometimes.
As for the rest of my class, we only had four active duty types in the class, and I lost touch with them as well. They weren’t overly concerned with heading straight off to war, though I think two of them were off to Airborne School immediately after graduation to avoid service in Korea, so I assume that they were in Afghanistan or Iraq relatively quick with units of the 18th Airborne Corps. Many of my other classmates parlayed the increased readiness of the military to get full-time jobs with their units back home, and at least one that I know of ended up going on active duty later, though, to my knowledge, she avoided deploying overseas. I wish I had kept better tabs on everyone in that class (Class 15!), but a lot of them annoyed me. If any of you happen to see this, please drop me a line.
Hmm… well my short post about my 9/11 experience became a long one, but I ultimately don’t think that is bad. On a day like today, if it is something that you do, take a minute to think of the 3,000+ civilians that died on 9/11, and the subsequent troops that have died since then fighting the War on Terror. I know that there are other specific holidays for this (Memorial Day and Veterans Day), but every little bit helps. The ultimate thanks would be to go and sign up for the military, but I understand that everybody doesn’t want to do that.
Until next time…