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PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF 9/11

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Thank you for the opportunity to tell our story, as we approach the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.
Coming home from school on Friday afternoon, I saw a U.S. Postal Service envelope on my desk. This was exciting, because I lived in Canada at the time and few people sent me mail from the U.S. -- fewer still sent me certified mail. I knew what this was! This envelope was from my recruiter, SSgt. Tate. Ripping into the document, I found my orders to basic training with my guaranteed job of Security Forces. To say I was over the moon, is an understatement. I took my orders with me to school on Monday, and bragged to my friends that I had a real job and they were more than likely bound for flipping burgers.
Tuesday morning was 9/11; the world and my “why” changed. The first image I saw of the ordeal was the first tower falling. Up to that point, a number of my fellow seniors tried to explain to me what they had seen on the news before they came to school. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the notion that someone flew not one, but TWO, commercial airliners into skyscrapers. In the proceeding days, I was asked, repeatedly, if I was going to go through with my enlistment. Not only was I still fired up to go, I wanted to get high school over as soon as possible, so I could report sooner.
In the 20 years since then, it has been my pleasure to serve our nation. Our mission sets have changed a bit but our purpose has not. Returning to Lackland this summer has been bittersweet. I stepped off the bus June 4, 2002, as a basic trainee and now I get to serve the men and women tasked with growing the next generation of Airmen. These Airmen were born into a conflict that predated some of their parent’s relationships. They will live with the legacy of these conflicts and shoulder the burden of future conflicts — but they’ll be ready.

Jason Wagner, CMSgt, USAF
 

On 9/11 I was a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom of two young children and my husband was working for Delta Airlines when the attack occurred. He was worried about losing his job with the airlines and he wanted to join the military, but due to a minor heart condition, he didn’t qualify. Then he asked me if I wanted to “give it a try.”  So I did, and here I am as an almost 19-year AF career veteran now with four children and two grandchildren!

The events of 9/11 propelled me to join the military and I am so grateful the wonderful adventure the Air Force has given to me and my family!

Beth A. Rosario, Lt Col, USAF
Commander, 322d Training Squadron

 

On September 10, 2001, I was a 2T2 (Air Transportation) stationed with the 735 Air Mobility Squadron at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. I was a SrA at the time having only been in the Air Force a little over two years and this was my first duty assignment. America was still involved in Operations Northern and Southern Watch, and Hickam AFB was about as far removed as you could get. Base access was still done with windshield stickers, no ID checks, and deployments didn’t exist. Then I went to bed that night.
At approximately 0430L the phone rang. The person at the other end had a rushed sound to their voice and promptly told me that this was a real world recall and to report to my duty section ASAP. My wife asked me what was going on and I responded “either someone has a real bad sense of humor or something bad happened.” We didn’t have cell phones back then and the internet was relatively new. I started getting ready while the wife tuned on the TV. Both towers had already collapsed and Flight 77 had been flown into Pentagon. There was talk about a plane crashing in a field (Flight 93), but there was a real fear of the unknown. Why was this happening? Were there going to be more crashes? Was the White House going to be hit? No one could confirm that these were coordinated attacks and who was doing it.
Thankfully I lived on base and rode my bicycle to work. As I rode past the gate, I remember seeing cars backed up as far as you could see; the base was in full lockdown. Once I reached the freight terminal, I could see the magnitude of the situation; there were planes everywhere! Hickam shares the runway with the international airport; they are at the east end while the military ramp is at the west end. There were civilian planes on the taxiways, military parking ramps and a few places in between. By this time the FAA had grounded all flights. For the next few weeks, things were pretty tense as names like Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban became regular parts of our vocabulary. It was mandatory 12-hour shifts, no days off, no leave.
A few days later, we were briefed that volunteers were being sought to begin the build-up in Diego Garcia. Being the eager Airmen looking to prove himself I was one of the first to volunteer. Operation Enduring Freedom hadn’t started yet, so this would be classified as a TDY. Unfortunately for me, the first group went to Kadena AB, Okinawa. Yokota AB was closed for runway repairs, so the cargo missions were being routed through Kadena which didn’t have the manning to support. The second group of volunteers actually went to Diego Garcia.

Steven J. Braddick, Maj, USAF
Director, Commander’s Action Group
37th Training Wing

 

I was studying at the University of Florida during this time period. We were taking a break from class when one of my classmates came up to us and said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. She asked if we had heard about it; we said no. By noon, the university president had cancelled classes for the rest of the day. I returned home and watched the coverage on ABC News. I cried. Later on, I spoke with my mother on the phone. She thought she was watching a movie. I began to ponder the fact that we were now at war…

Kathleen Del Castillo
ESL Specialist, GS-11
Defense Language Institute English Language Center

 

In building 7445 on the DLIELC campus, JBSA Lackland, I joined a growing group of co-workers under the TV set perched up on the wall of our breakroom.  So one of the trade towers was burning and I had inferred to myself “plane crash.”  A pilot who had gotten confused big-time?  Then the other plane hit and all of our faces gradually assumed the same expression, silent horror and realization that something was very wrong.  My eyes locked with several others, then we all turned away to come to grips with the scene, privately.  What was this?!  And just like that we could not leave the building for hours.
Thus began for me the reality of serving in “two Afghanistans” as a DoD civilian, the dangerous Afghanistan at the onset of OIF (2003), and the even more dangerous Afghanistan in 2009.  In 2003 I was on the first Mobile Training Team (MTT) to deploy to Kabul to start up our English language training (ELT) endeavors there, a mission that would go on for years and consume much of my life.  I felt a giant sense of purpose and wanted to contribute to OEF the best way I knew how.  I got to know my nine Afghan ANA officer students well, and they gave me a big bronze horse before I departed.
In 2009 I deployed to Kabul again this time as the DLIELC ELT Coordinator, and by then I felt responsible for the entire program.  We stood up a large schoolhouse near the air strip and also paved the way for small, peripheral ELT sites around the city.  At DLI I had been desk officer/Overseas Programs Manager for both Afghanistan and Iraq for over two years and when I left for Kabul that second time, I was beginning to feel tired.  Once again I had chosen to break away from my wife and two children in order to contribute to OEF via language training, and help take care of our Afghan counterparts.  This time in host country, freedom was minimal when compared to 2003.  Just a trip to Camp Eggers meant an armored-up convoy dressed in Kevlar while wearing a weapon, with an IED jammer in the back of the SUV.  As a civilian I felt at one with my USAF companions during all of my experiences in Kabul. 
Now in 2021, Afghanistan is even more hazardous, but we kept our homeland safe for twenty years, and I saw firsthand the many good things we did while there.  Such good deeds cannot be removed.

Thomas Lawrence
Overseas Programs Manager AFRICOM/INDOPACOM
637 ISS/INF
Defense Language Institute English Language Center