Well it started out as brief happy home coming for those of us serving onboard the USS McInerney FFG-8. We came home for two weeks midway through a 6 month deployment out in the Pacific waters off the coast of South America to get some needed maintenance and grooming of our ship’s systems. I was looking forward to seeing my family for those two weeks and then finish off the other half of the deployment.
Well when the 11th rolled around, our 4th day back in town, I was busy getting several projects done at once. I worked as an Electronics Technician while serving and was troubleshooting a bridge-to-bridge radio, working on a critical switch for a surface to air missile system and a couple of other minor projects.
My first realization that something was wrong that day did not come until well after the second plane hit. I remember walking by the mess decks several times while everyone was gathered around watching the news in the middle of the workday. I did not see at first the towers burning so while walking by I almost wanted to tell everyone to get back to work, our liberty was at stake and I wanted to get home to see my family. After about the third time walking by I took a second to see why everyone was glued to the TV. After glancing for a couple of seconds I saw both towers with smoke billowing out from a distance. My immediate thought while walking back up to the bridge was why the hell were those buildings on fire… after getting back to where I was working I mentioned to one of the contractors the World Trade Center was on fire… the contractor replied back to me jokingly, “guess someone shouldn’t have been smoking in there.”
Then I started work again and it finally hit me… “why the hell are both towers on fire?” Needless to say I immediately went down to my workshop to finally be brief on the news. It was a horrible sinking feeling when I watched the replay and asked what happened.
The chief in charge of the missile system I was working on called me while I was in my shop saying, “due to current events of planes flying into buildings, you might want to expedite your repairs of our air defense system!” I complied immediately.
After several days word got back to me about my former Commanding Officer on my last ship the USS John Hancock DD-981, Commander Dolan, was killed in the Pentagon when the third plane hit. His funeral was held at the Naval Academy in October 2001 and we had a rare full casket burial at sea after coming back early from our deployment for Capt. Dolan. I was one of the pallbearers. Probably one of the most surreal moments in my life.