I was working my shift, a temporary one I had involuntarily been placed in because some guy wanted to take leave, and I was the unfortunate one placed in his spot. My daughter had been born just 10 days earlier(September 1st) and I had not been able to spend a whole lot of time with her. At 9:02 am, my mom called me. She asked me if I had remembered several years ago when the WTC had been bombed, and thought I wouldn’t. I reminded her it was only a few years ago, I had long been out of school, and did indeed remember. She said, “Oh ok, well it just got attacked again.” I laughed and said, “What? Are you serious?” (note: she never joked like that, it just caught me off guard)
She said yes, and asked me to turn on a tv. Ironicly, I just happened to be working in a place with a big tv, so I turned it on. I saw the first tower in smoke, but it wasn’t sinking in. No sooner did I turn on the tv, than the 2nd plane hit. I saw it live. I spoke to her for another minute, then said I had to go, as I wanted to see if anyone else knew anything, not even thinking the news would. So I went out and began telling people. The base was in its usual hum, nothing out of the ordinary. And no one knew a thing it seemed. I told some people down the hall who came to watch my tv. At one point, I needed to go check something and began walking out. As I passed a corner, I caught a glimpse of the Pentagon in the corner of my eye. I stepped back and asked if that was the Pentagon, and someone turned and screamed that it had been hit by an airplane too. For a split second I froze, then some strange excitement came over me and I ran out the door. By now several people were running around.
Oh, I forgot to tell you, I work about 10 miles north of the Pentagon…
A ton of people had gathered in the main lobby of the hospital, and they began setting up a triage center, and did it in record time. This hospital is not set up for traumas. Anyway, I went back to my office, which was an A/V unit, and people poured into the amphitheater next door. Some guys came up and with their help, we got the tvs in the amphitheater rigged so the news would come on. Then it became a waiting game. Shortly after the Pentagon was hit, I tried to call my wife, but the phone lines had been cut off temporarily(security measure). I found an Ensign who let me use her cell phone, and got thru to my wife, telling her to not go anywhere at all, and I would call back as soon as I could. A few people were crying, but most everyone else was running in automatic, including myself. I stopped by my main working area, and was told I needed to close up and come back there, but I would be doing the A/V job as well when needed. I did have to do a little A/V stuff, but mainly stayed in my usual area. I arrived to work on September 11th at 6:45am, but didn’t get home until 7:30am September 12th.
I never have taken the opportunity to fully deal with my emotions over it, having to fight them back in order to do my job, and them finally subsiding after a couple of months. It has been this way with many military folks. We have a job to do, and can not allow our emotions to well up like the average person when the stuff flies. I will never be able to forget the day, seeing as I work in DC.
Here is a letter I sent a hometown editor, which kind of summed it up at the time:
“A Texan serving in Washington DC”
Greetings, Mr. Stevenson.
My name is (Pecos). I am a Petty Officer (Information Systems Technician 3rd class) in the United States Navy.
I was(am) working at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, located about 10 miles north of the Pentagon (as the crow flies), when the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occurred. The initial reactions from most everyone were disbelief, grief, shock. But within a few minutes of finding out, most everyone shifted gears, concentrating on preparing to receive casualties from the Pentagon. In just a little over an hour, a Triage center was set up in the main lobby of the hospital, consisting of several computer stations, personnel manning those stations, and medical teams and equipment standing by for ambulances to arrive. At the same time, 12 ambulances raced from the hospital to the Pentagon, only to meet up with over 30(don’t know the exact number) other ambulances from the surrounding area. Most of the casualties were taken to the nearest hospitals for treatment. As evening set in, it became clear there would be no casualties arriving. That was difficult news to accept for many here. Yet, we pushed onward, providing any support possible. Then, as stated in news reports, the USNS COMFORT launched to assist in the efforts in New York City. Many of the personnel at NNMC work on the COMFORT. The COMFORT is currently providing assistance to the rescuers.
I am a former resident of *****, and have been serving my country for over 3 years, and plan to continue to do so for several more. I have spoken with several people from back home in Texas, and many of them seemed surprised when I told them how many of us, the military personnel, have not had a chance to sit back and reflect on the recent tragedies. Most people don’t realize that when the stuff hits the fan, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have jobs to do that do not often allow for many breaks or times of rest. We are in a heightened state of alert, which means we have to work more than we might on an average day. In my own situation, I have a baby who is only a few weeks old, having been born September 1st. She is the loveliest baby in the world! Her name is Melissa Priyanka, and she was born weighing 8 pounds 2.7 ounces, and was 21 1/2 inches long. Mother and baby are doing very well. Shortly before my baby was born, I was placed in a temporary position which caused me to not be able to take any family leave once my child was born. Thank the Lord(literally) she was born on the 1st, as it was Labor Day weekend, meaning I was able to be there when she was born, hold her some, and spend the first couple of days with her. I have had a little time here and there to spend with her, but not as much as I would like. My wife and daughter are two of the brightest stars in the course of my life. I thank God for them. Now with recent events, I have even less time to spend with them. But, I am still able to see them each day, unlike those who are on ships or bases deployed around the world, away from their loved ones, and pray that they might soon be able to see their families again.
We all make sacrifices, and mine is trivial compared to many of my fellow shipmates and servicemen and women, but we persevere, ensuring freedom for our country and its people, in the hopes that future generations will not have to face what we are facing now. It does warm our hearts to see the incredible rise in patriotism that has engulfed Americans. So many flags everywhere. So many people wanting to join the military. So much support from even those who are against the military, President Bush, etc. It has been amazing. I personally wish to say ‘Thank You’ to Texas, for I know some of the most patriotic people come from Texas. We love our land and our country, and by God, we are NOT going to sit back let any terrorist stomp on us!
God Bless everyone.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But I will continue to do my job as I can, and God willing, will do so for many more years to come.