Where I was on 9/11.
I am a retired United States submarine veteran. Most of my 20+ years in the Navy were spent stationed at the
submarine base in Groton, Connecticut.
On September 11, 2001, I was a Quartermaster onboard the USS Toledo (SSN 679). We had just gotten underway that morning for a training exercise at the AUTEC (Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center) range. I estimate that we were passing under the Goldstar Memorial Bridge (which separates Groton from New London) about quater-to-nine that morning. We had no idea what was happening just over 130 miles away.
Traditionally, whenever we were going to do battle exercises, our Commanding Officer would come over the 1MC (public address system) with some real-world-type scenario that would help the crew put on our game-face and get in the mind set for the battle exercises.
Once we cleared the Long Island Sound the CO told the crew that the U.S. had been attacked and to be ready for any mission changes. I was sure that this was our game scenario. I was surprised a couple hours later when the Navigator asked me how long it would take to prepare a full set of charts to transit to La Maddalena, Italy. I asked why and was told that we may need to get a live weapons loadout.
You see, when a submarine goes to the AUTEC range, they use practice torpedoes – also known aws ‘shapes’. If we needed to get a live weapon changeout we could go to almost any base along the east coast. I was informed that every boat at every base along the east coast had been ordered to sortie and the only place to get a live loadout would be in the Med. I was shocked, as was the rest of the crew, that what the CO had told us was NOT a game scenario.
We wound up not going to the Med and proceeded to the AUTEC range as planned.
When we arrived at AUTEC, the technicians came aboard and brought newspapers, magazines and VHS tapes of the news from that morning. Much of the video that we saw was uncensored and the horror and devistation was surreal. I, as well as others, sat with jaw dropped as we watched the tradjedy unfold in front of our eyes for the first time.