Where were you on September 11?

  • Published
  • By Melanie Moore
  • 79th Medical Wing
Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on 9/11 when there were a series of four terrorist attacks on US soil by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda.

I talked with members of the 79th Medical Wing staff to find out their stories of where they were and what they were doing. Here are a few of their stories, including my own. 

Col. Sharon Bannister, 79th Medical Wing commander

I was a periodontal resident at Wilford Hall in the middle of a graded oral case presentation.  During the break, we walked out of the conference room and saw the patient waiting room full of staff and patients watching the TV in complete silence.  Once I realized what had happened, my heart immediately ached for the families of those who were about to live with loss for the rest of their lives.  I don't remember anything else that happened that day and probably never will, but I'll never forget that the attacks claimed the lives of 2,996 people and affected the lives of many millions more.  On 9/11 at 8:46 a.m., please take time to give a moment of silence to remember one of the darkest days in our nation's history. 

Chief Master Sgt. Michelle R. Thorsteinson-Richards, 79th Medical Wing Command Chief

I was stationed at McGuire AFB, NJ on 9-11. The day started like any other day, until I member stated, "Wow, a plane just hit one of the Twin Towers". We all ran into the break room to watch the video and hear the news report, shortly after the second plane hit the second Tower. Immediately, everything changed. The base quickly locked down and went into "Delta", people started performing the checklist like I've never seen before...a sense of urgency brought on a new meaning, while the looks on people's faces was pure disbelief. Next were the Pentagon and then the Pennsylvania field where a plane crashed. Amid escalating rumors of further terrorist attacks non-essential civilians were sent home, while military personnel prepped for what may come. Patients were cancelled while deployment lines stood up. Medical bays were set up in the gym, ready to receive casualties. It would be months if not longer before things would return to a familiar pace. Twelve hour schedules were implemented for all military personnel. For the first time in my career, I saw the Air Force embodied into an unstoppable team. One that was unwavering and willing to stop at nothing, with a vision of realization to follow. At the end of the day, we were released around 2000 hours. I'm certain that everyone went home and embraced their families for the unknown future before us.

Col. Michelle Pufall, 79th Medical Wing Administrator

I was on duty at Headquarters, United State Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein AB as a Medical Readiness Planner.  I will never forget watching the plane hit the second tower on the television and knowing my job would become pivotal to ensuring medical readiness and deployment actions for our military response. 

Phyllis Grabowski, 79th Medical Wing Executive Secretary

That morning I heard on the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. As soon as I got to work at the Surgeon General's office at Bolling AFB everyone gathered in the conference room where the TV was on and saw that another plane had crashed into the other World Trade Center Building.  Short time later one of the colonels in the office started to scream. She could see that the Pentagon was on fire and her brother worked there. The whole day was traumatic, since no one knew where this was coming from. Maj Gen Roudebush was the Deputy Command Surgeon at that time and was there with us. He did a remarkable job of keeping the staff informed and calm.  I told him later he was like a good dose of Prozac. The Surgeon General, Lt Gen Carlton, went to the Pentagon right after it was hit to render assistance in any way.  When he returned, even his eyebrows were singed from the heat. The United States was robbed of so many things that day, most importantly time. Look at how much time security takes now. I am grateful for it but we did lose a valuable asset.

Melanie Moore, 79th Medical Wing Public Affairs Officer

I was in Tooele, Utah and was off that day because my daughter Becky had broken her arm. We were going to get her a cast. I got to sleep in so when the radio came on as my alarm, the announcer was talking about what had happened.  The next day the station went on and played Lee Greenwood's song "God Bless the USA" for 48 hours straight. Civilians were let off work for a couple of days, but when I returned to work at Dugway Proving Ground the main work area was covered with barbed wire and National Guard units in Secure Observation Posts around the main perimeter. It was like walking into a war zone. I still have chills when I think about it."

These are just a few of the many stories in the hearts of our Airmen. Talk to your co-workers and find out what they were doing during September 11. It was a time we will always remember where we wee and what we were doing.