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.