Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2001

  Yes, this is a repost of a repost of a...well, you get the point.  But, I am going to continue reposting this sad story of a world gone to hell.     
  Unfortunately, given the news today, things haven't improved.
  I just pray this will never happen again.
  I'm not terribly optimistic, though.  Tragically, evil and barbarism is how much of the human race conducts business.

    It’s my generation’s “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” moment.

    Just before one o’clock in the afternoon on September 11th (a sad commentary: we don’t even need to identify the year anymore), my maintenance supervisor stuck his head into my room as I snoozed in preparation for the night shift.

    “Sir, someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center.”

    Minutes later, I watched, horrified, as a second plane struck the South tower.  And then, as both of the monstrously huge structures tumbled to the ground like they were kicked by a petulant child.

    My Willow Grove unit was participating in a multi-national exercise at the Naval Air Station in Keflavik, Iceland (this explains why it was the afternoon).  A round-the-clock operation, the “Keflavik Tactical Exchange” gave us a chance to evaluate each other’s capabilities should we ever needed to flex our respective militaries.  Little did we know that we were preparing for a type of war which no longer existed.

    Because the 21st Century came roaring into each of our lives on that late summer day.

    Naturally, the exercise was immediately cancelled.  Foreign aircrews (funny that I call them “foreign” since we were actually foreigners, too) beat hasty retreats to their home bases.  We, on the other hand, were told that American airspace was closed indefinitely.

    Station security forces went into their highest readiness posture.  Watch teams at the main gate beefed up, rings of barbed wire cordoned off perceived sensitive areas, and armed patrols roamed the perimeter.

    My watch teams and I, on the other hand, remained at our billeting.  In Iceland only for the exercise, we were considered non-essential personnel who’d only get in the way.

    And so we spent the next few days.

    I received a worried phone call from my wife during this time.  She fretted over my safety.  I assured her that I was fine, but omitted the fact that I was more concerned for her and the kids.

    You see, my family lives in Hilltown, Pennsylvania.  Which is only a couple hours from New York City and only a few from Washington.

    The ensuing few days were a frantic search for whatever updates we could glean from the news.  We desperately wanted to know how in the world we’d get ourselves and thousands of pounds of equipment back home.

    Most importantly, we yearned to get into the fight.  Whatever the fight was.

    Four days later, U.S. airspace was opened to military traffic.  As I glanced through the window of the Navy P-3 patrol plane which took us home, I was struck at how empty the sky was-with the exception of the one plane which approached us as we crossed into the United States.  It came no closer than a few miles before it disappeared.

    I think it was a fighter aircraft.

    What’s more, the radio circuits, normally full of the chatter from countless air traffic controllers, were eerily silent.  The only ones “on the air” were the handful who guided us home.  All else were hushed into silence.

    Our route of flight took us just south of Manhattan, well out of sight of land.  At that distance, even at the altitude at which we were flying, it was impossible to see any of the city skyline.

    But, we did see a huge pall of gray-brown smoke lingering in the air like the death shroud that it was.

    As we touched down at NAS-JRB Willow Grove, there was nobody to greet us or any acknowledgment that we were even back.  Somehow, though, it seemed fitting.

    After all, we all had something much more important to do.

    Go home to our families.

In memory of:
Commander Bill Donovan, USN
AW2 (NAC/AW) Joseph Pycior, USN
and the thousands whose only crime was going to work that day.


  1. You had a unique perspective on the day and the days that followed. I would've been worried for my family's safety as well.

    1. I really was worried about them. And I felt powerless to help them as I was perched on a rock in the North Atlantic.

  2. Al.....We need this reminder every year. We've never had to look up and watch bombs falling from the least not yet.

    1. I worry, I really do. Like I said yesterday, I wonder how history books will view this time period.

  3. This was the "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" moment for a number of generations. It was definitely it for my generation, even if I was only 11 at the time and couldn't fully comprehend everything that was happening. Over time though I have come to realise the extent of that event and the impact it's had on the world. It might be a cliche and an overused phrase, but the world really hasn't been the same since.

  4. Can't forget, but I have little hope that it won't happen again, as you say, mankind has always liked to kill one another for stupid reasons.

  5. My brother works for Morgan Stanley who had an office in one of the trade towers. My brother was scheduled to be at the Trade Towers that morning but the flu kept him in San Francisco.

  6. It's weird--I was taking a class at a place called "The Armory." I think it used to be an armory...not sure. I don't think any of us will ever forget where we were when we heard.

  7. We lived very near Camp David. F-16s flew over our house every 15 minutes for quite some time. The Hurricane attended Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. Some of the students there had parents who worked in the Towers on the Pentagon.


  8. I remember sitting at home and my husband calling me. He asked "Did you hear about the World Trade Center?" and I thought he was starting to tell me a joke. He assured me it was no joke, I turned on the television and indeed, it was no joke.

  9. I imagine I am one of the many who simply don't know what to say. Anger, hatred, good thoughts of a nation all-too-briefly united, and gnawing fear all flood back to mind.

  10. Sven. Ken. Whatever,
    Remembering Wild Bill also. Today, and nearly every day.

    1. K Mart!
      You may be interested...I'm writing a trilogy (good grief, can I sound any more pretentious?) of "Navy" books. This (and other GW tales) will be in the third one: "The Penwasser Years."
      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I know that 9/11 wasn't the start of all the craziness, but it certainly is the focal point of all the craziness. It is a scary world right now.