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Never Forget

Never forget the events of September 11, 2001.

Never forget the events of September 11, 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Russell Stewart/Released)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Team Goodfellow members share their memories of September 11, 2001.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Kidd, 312th Training Squadron:

I was waiting for my mom to get ready for work and for her to take me to school, 4th grade. I was getting ready to walk out the door when my mom screamed at the TV, she had seen the first tower pushing out smoke. I was pretty young at the time, so I wasn't sure what was going on. That’s when I saw the second plane hit, even being in 4th grade I knew something wasn't right. My mom was crying the whole way taking me to school, and that’s when she got a phone call from my dad. My dad was in the Air Force Reserves as a major working with the KC-135 maintenance depot out of Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

Once again, I wasn't sure what was going on. My teacher had the TV on all day watching the news. It wasn't until I got home from school to see my dad getting his bag together for a potential recall. He explained to me that some bad people had attacked our country and that he might be called to go help fight. It was at that point that I made a promise to myself; that I was going to serve and help fight the war on terror.

9/11 still didn't make its full impact on me till I joined the Air Force. I signed my contract to be a fire protection airman. When I began looking into firefighting history, I found that I had joined a group of brothers and sisters who had lost 343 New York firefighters at the World Trade Centers. They were the living embodiment of what “Service Before Self” means, even as civilians.

It's because of their sacrifice that countless lives were saved, and gave countless others the image of a true hero.

 

Tech Sgt. Jason Archer, 17th Contracting Squadron:

I was on leave to spend time with a relative that had flown into town. Most of the day was spent trying to find a way to get him back to Washington D.C. as his flight had, of course, been cancelled. There were two notable elements to the day that stand out in my memory.

 

The first was the silence… I lived in the inbound flight path to Orlando International Airport and was accustomed to constant aircraft noise. That was the only day where the sky was completely, eerily silent. My second notable memory occurred during lunch that day. I was at a restaurant where they have several televisions spread around the dining area for showing sports. Every television that day was showing non-stop live footage of the collapsed towers and the Pentagon burning. The typically noisy dining room was very subdued, and there was only one topic that people at each table were talking about. A man in the next booth over was telling his friends that we were now at war.

 

The relevant part of the story began when I returned to work at the recruiting office. Our usually sleepy office was going crazy, the phone was ringing off the hook with people wanting to serve and go after those who were responsible for the attack. I received calls from people who were too young, (way) too old and from retirees asking how they could help. The master sergeant running the office saw a 300 percent increase in potentially suitable applicants overnight. I remember one call in particular, where a retired colonel called me and begged, literally begged, for me to put her back into service. It took a good while to gently explain to her that I could not do so, and she cried. She desperately wanted to serve her country again in a time of need and it was heartbreaking to tell her that it wasn’t possible.

 

At one point in the day, a woman and her daughter came into our office. They had baked a cake for us that said, “God Bless Our Troops,” on it. The young daughter, maybe 7 or 8 years-old, gave the cake to us and thanked us for our service. It’s kind of a random moment but it’s a memory that recalls the national spirit on that day; wounded, yes, but resilient and united in purpose.

 

Two other “this is not just an office job” moments occurred, the first of which was when I entered Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, during Force Protection Condition Delta. Seeing armed Airmen manning sandbag barricades in the hallways of office buildings was a reality check. The second was in seeing a photo shortly after the attack of an Airman I was in Basic Military Training with, treating wounded on the lawn on the Pentagon. She was no doubt having a normal morning when everything went sideways and she was called upon to do her duty and save lives at a time and place she likely would never have expected. It was a stark reminder of the need to be ready for anything at any time.

 

Tech Sgt. Matthew Williams, 315th TRS:

I was in 11th grade sitting in Chemistry class when we had the fire alarm go off. We had had multiple fire drills in the preceding weeks, so I didn't think anything of it. We had just moved to Bolling Air Force Base, Maryland, a month earlier, and my school was right off the Waterfront exit for the Metro, off of M Street.

 

When we went outside for the fire alarm, I saw hundreds of people running out of the metro station, and hundreds more running down the street away from our building. I also saw dozens of police, fire, and ambulance vehicles zooming by, and could hear other ones around the buildings. It took about 20 minutes of standing around confused before our teachers told us that it wasn't a fire drill, and that someone had attacked the Pentagon.

 

My siblings and I knew our dad was in the Pentagon, so we were worried about him. We called our mom at home, and she said she was on her way to come pick us up. My dad had called her to say that he was okay, and he was going to take the metro to pick us up. It took both of them over an hour to get to our school, which was only two miles away from Bolling, and only four stops away from the Pentagon on the metro. Traffic was stopped, and the metro shut down for a while.

 

People were panicking, and nobody knew for sure what happened. When I went with my dad to ride the metro home, some of the people on the metro were telling us what they had heard, and that they heard someone attacked Bolling and the White House. We finally got back to base where we were greeted by the gate guard in full battle-rattle, complete with M16 pointed at us as he stopped us to check our ID cards.

 

As we pulled on to Bolling, we could see across the Potomac River that the Pentagon was on fire. Black smoke emitted from the Pentagon for at least a week after that. We came home to watch the news and finally see what was going on. The next day, D.C. was shut down. We stayed home and watched the news coverage all day to see what happened.

 

Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Compton, 17th Medical Group:

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a Staff Sgt. and a Technical school instructor at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas. I had just completed a lesson and was on a break when I returned to my office and everyone walked in talking about a plane crashing into a building in New York.

 

We all thought, wow that guy really screwed up and wrote it off as a really bad mishap. Then within a short time another air craft did the same thing, at this point all the instructors are gathered around a computer watching the news, really unaware of what was going on. I remember many students from New York had family who worked in the World Trade Center or in nearby buildings. We were allowing them to use our personal cell phones to try to contact their family members.

 

Some made contact, others did not.

 

At about 10 a.m., I was recalled as a Security Forces Squadron augmentee. During the first few days, every base in the Air Force was in real world Threat Condition Delta, the base remained closed for the first few days.

 

Once we reopened, we searched every single vehicle that entered the base; we had traffic backed up as far as you could see. I remember I was armed with M9 and M16, wearing Kevlar helmets and Individual Body Armor. It was still hot and humid in San Antonio at this time, after a 15-hour shift I went home, I could ring out the sweat from all of my clothing, going right to bed and start all over again at 4 a.m... Real world Delta ended several days later and I remained an augmentee for the next several months before returning to the podium.

 

Security to enter the base forever changed that day.

 

 

Russell Stewart, 17th Training Wing Public Affairs:

 

I was a Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Navy and our aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, was in route to our deployment in the Persian Gulf in support of the 11th iteration of Operation JOINT SOUTHERN WATCH. The ship had rounded the southern tip of India and was headed across the Indian Ocean.

 

I had just walked into the crowded Mess Deck with my lunch tray and was looking for a place to sit. As I passed by one of several TVs, CNN was explaining how a commercial aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center. My only thought was, what an incredible blunder! What impossible set of circumstances had led to such an unbelievable error?

 

I hadn’t even sat down when I was frozen in my tracks as the second aircraft soared across the screen and collided with the second tower! The normal roar of voices and rattling of trays and silverware quickly ceased as hundreds of Sailors gaped in confusion at the unthinkable. I could hear someone sobbing in the eerily silent Mess Deck.

 

As I sank into my seat, the realization that there was no way both crashes were an accident crawled through my brain and made my hair stand on end. The roar of voices slowly rolled back in and was redoubled in volume. Dozens of Sailors who moments before had been settling in to eat, abandoned their meals and urgently dashed off with hardly a word to their shipmates.

 

I can’t remember what food was on my tray that day, but my appetite had left me and I gathered my tray and another from an empty seat to take them to the scullery before making my way back to the Carrier Intelligence Center.

 

The next few days were a blur, but one thing still remains clear to me, as the carrier made its best speed to the Northern Indian Ocean after receiving new orders, everyone was united in purpose. Whether they were serving chow, building bombs, running the laundry, fueling aircraft, analyzing intelligence, maintaining the ship or repairing aircraft, sorting the mail, ordering parts and supplies…

 

We were all united, like never before.

 

 

Spc. Alexis Brown, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion

 

The story of why I joined the Army is based on the value of selfless service which I saw my father exhibit as a Soldier stationed at the Pentagon during 9/11.

 

"Where were you during 9/11?" is a common question I've heard growing up as a military kid. I was in the hallway of Fort Belvoir Elementary School with my head tucked between my legs because the teachers told us that a lion had escaped the zoo and that's why we couldn't leave.

 

It sounds goofy in retrospect but that lie shielded us from the reality that we were about to face once we left the school. I remember my mom sitting me down in her bed and turning on the news where I saw my dad's workplace in flames. We watched the news as she explained that we had to pray for my dad and everything would be okay. I guess the prayer worked because we received a phone call from him saying he made it out, but because of his job, he would have to go back and continue working.

 

This wasn't the case for a lot of my classmates and the next couple of weeks would consist of Red Cross visiting our school for trauma counseling. I remember lighting candles on our front porch to honor the sacrifice of the people who died during 9/11, the weight of which I'll never forget.

 

I remember my mom explaining to me that there were bad people in the world that would want to hurt the United States but there were Soldiers who would be there to protect us and keep working even though they had families at home.

 

9/11 was my first experience of what it meant to be an American and how the values of freedom must be defended through selfless service, which I am striving to live now as a Soldier.