At age 19 I decided to join the Unites States Air Force. I spend 10 years severing my country in the intelligence community defending our country against many unforeseen enemies. During those 10 years I had the luxury of fighting this clandestine war without every seeing the adversaries face. We had always been able to intercept many of our targets before they ever neared protected boarders.
In November 2000 I was accepted by the Anchorage Police Department to become a Police Officer Recruit. In most cities of the United States, this is not an extremely hard feat, however anyone that has ever tried in Anchorage will tell you that it is not an easy road to travel or complete. I was 1 of 20 accepted out of 3000 nation-wide applicants that year.
After graduating the Police Academy, I quickly realized that life as a Police Officer was much more than I could have ever imagined. It was the closest I had ever felt to death while never felling so alive. My oldest daughter (age 8) did not see it that way. My last night as an active Police Officer started with my daughter telling me, with tears in her eyes, that she did not want me to die that night. I ensured her that I would be safe, but in my heart, I knew that this was not a promise I could 100 percent keep. I had three children at the time and I decided, after that shift, that my lifelong dream was over and they were much more important to me. After taking four days to think about it I resigned.
I took the next three months off to spend with my kids during that summer in Alaska. I had never been unemployed before that so it was quite the adjustment. After that summer I decided it was time to go back into the working world. I had received a tip from another Police Academy Mate that had also resigned for their own reasons, as many did, for a job at the Anchorage Federal Building.
I had applied and landed the job working for the Federal Protective Service Dispatch Center for Alaska. After a training period I was cut loose as the Dispatch Center Lead. My first day as Lead was September 11th 2001….
That morning I was awaken by a phone call at about 5:30am (9:30am Eastern). In my lifelong experience, a phone call at that time in the morning never equals good news. The phone call came from a friend in the Lower 48 asking me if I had seen the news. I replied “Of course not, its 5:30 in the morning here!”. They then advised me to turn on CNN. I did and at the time the first tower was on fire. I remember watching the first tower thinking, “how could a plan have hit that building?”. Just a few minutes later I watched the second plane hit. Based on my experience, I knew at that time we were under attack and this was no accident.
Reluctantly I prepared for work and drove into Anchorage. Anchorage is home to two military bases. One being Elmendorf Air Force Base and the other Fort Richardson Army Post. Any exit related to either base was backed up for miles in the emergency lane. Once I entered Anchorage the city seemed to be business as usual until I neared the Federal Building.
The building was surrounded by the Anchorage Police Department. Only those that carried a valid federal ID were allowed to enter. I approached the front doors where I found one of my Police Academy Mates standing guard with a shotgun. We greeted each other and his words were these, “Your not going in there are you?” I replied, “Yeah, talk about jumping out of the frying pan into the fire huh?” He looked me dead in the eye and let me pass.
I entered the dispatch center and took over for the first time since the Friday before on my last day of training. Of course the atmosphere was very uneasy with all staff, but we had a job to do and to be honest none of us had a clue what was in order for the day, nor do I think we were ready.
I had arrived at 7:30am and had been briefed on current activity concerning the building which besides our current lock down situation outside the building, all was quite. Since only employees were allowed anywhere near the building, the hallways were all but empty. It was eerily quiet on all the closed circuit cameras. Inside of 90 minutes that would all change.
About 9:00am the Dispatch Center phone rang with a caller ID of a known Federal Protective Service Officer’s number located within the building. I picked up the phone and the instructions that followed were to pull the master fire alarms of the building. When I asked why, he said, “There is an aircraft headed for Anchorage that is suspected to be High Jacked!” I stood up from the console and pulled all three master fire alarm switches. The Governor of Alaska had ordered downtown evacuated.
I transmitted the information out to the Federal Building Guards as I watched the hallways fill up with personnel evacuating the building. The city of Anchorage was the strangest place I had ever seen just a few minutes later. Police cars were rushing by, people were evacuating to destinations they had no idea were. Serial would be an understatement. Nobody really knew what was happening with the exception of local radio. I saw people standing on street corners listening to portable radios trying to get any information they could.
I called my wife from my cell phone and told her what was going on. She was at home and asked if she should go get the kids out of school. I said, “Yes, get them right now!” She later told me that the school was overrun with parents with the same idea.
The Federal Building and all surround buildings had been evacuated. About 60 minutes later the call came out over my handheld radio that the suspected aircraft (Korean Flight 85) had been intercepted by F-15s out of Elmendorf AFB and escorted to Canadian air space. The all clear had been issued, however the Federal Building was now closed to the public as well as non-essential personnel.
We finished out the day clinging to any information we could about what had happened that day. Calling family members and friends, making sure everyone was ok. The world as we knew it, was never the same after that day.
The morning of September 12th , 2001 was my 30th birthday. I picked up the Anchorage Daily News off the porch with a cover page of “TERROR”…..
My story is one of millions of those that will never forget where they were and what they were doing that day. More importantly, we must never forget those that lost their lives that day. Never forget those that have lost their lives defending our freedom in the past, present and future. Freedom is not free. 9.11.01, 11.07.41 and many more historical dates should serve as a reminder of that…….