9/11: AFDW servicemembers remember ten years later

  • Published
  • By AFDW/PA
  • Air Force District of Washington
Marsha Johnson, Air Force District of Washington Deputy Director of Staff

I was at the McConnell AFB fitness center finishing up morning PT when I watched the second tower attack and then watched the rest of the day unfold on the TV in the lobby. I knew two people who were lost in the tragedy - both at the Pentagon. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Maude working inside the Pentagon; and an 11 year old on the plane - Bernard Curtis Brown II - a distinguished youth from the Bolling Air Force Base Youth Center. Sept. 11, 2001 is a day never to forget. This tragedy has made me understand that it makes a difference in how one reacts, talks, thinks, and treats others to overcome hopelessness and powerlessness - both instruments of change and peace.
Graceann Conroy, AFDW Financial Services Operations Office

I worked at the Pentagon when 9/11 took place but that day, I wasn't there. I was at Bolling Air Force as part of a team teaching a class. The rest of our team was in the office at the Pentagon. I hadn't told any of my family that I was going to Bolling for a class. We stood outside the finance office parking lot while they accounted for everyone and watched the smoke come from the Pentagon. Then the squadron of jets flew over our heads. While standing there, I kept thinking about how what was going on around me shouldn't be happening. It took me hours to get home from there. I was very lucky! It was a very sad day for our country as a whole.

Staff Sgt. Ravin L. Tatman, AFDW Reserve Enlistment

On Sept. 11, 2001 I watched the news and wasn't sure what really had taken place. I saw two buildings and a cloud of smoke and flames with an airplane. I was only 16 years old at the time and it wasn't until I got to school that morning that I realized there was a tragedy that had taken place on the east coast in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. I did understand that this was something major and that the entire country had been affected. Three years later I joined the Air Force Reserve. I wanted to do my part, no matter how large or small, in serving my country during a time of pain and healing.

George M. Varga, AFDW Deputy Comptroller

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001, I was assigned to the Deputy Secretary of the Air Force, Financial Management and Comptroller, working at my cubicle on the 4th floor, C-ring, near corridor 2 of the Pentagon.

At about 9:30 a.m. my wife called me and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City. We did not have any radios or televisions in our office, so this was the first that I heard of the events in New York. At first I didn't comprehend what she was talking about. While we were talking, I heard a loud noise and the building shook. I told my wife that something happened and I needed to hang-up. At the time, we had 13 people assigned; but that morning there were only four of us in the office. The rest were in various meetings around the Pentagon. We tried to find out what had happened from other people in our hallway, but there was no immediate information available; 10 minutes later we were told to evacuate the building.

As we departed through corridor three, we could see and smell acrid black smoke billowing over the roof of the Pentagon on the side with the helipad. At first I thought a helicopter had crashed, or that this was an exercise. We proceeded to our rally point, but were told to keep moving across the street. People with cell phones were trying to find out what was going on, but the circuits were saturated and no one was able to get through. Again we were told to move away from the government buildings, so I proceeded to the Crystal City Metro, hoping that along the way I could find a restaurant or store that had a television. I was able to catch a train to my wife's workplace, and that was the first time I saw the television reports about the New York City events and the attack on the Pentagon.

I tried to contact other personnel from my duty section but land lines and cell phones were overtaxed. I was extremely frustrated and concerned as none of my coworkers had made it home and I couldn't give the family members any news about their whereabouts.
Amazingly, when we returned to work a few days later, the power was still on and my computer was still powered up to the files I was working on when we evacuated. People working on the west side of the building were not so lucky. The impact took the lives of 125 people, many of them fellow financial managers from various agencies throughout the Department of Defense.

Melanie Moore, AFDW Public Affairs

It has been 10 years and I will never forget what happened to me. My daughter had broken her arm and we were staying home to take her to get her cast put on. The radio woke me up with the news and I ran to the television and couldn't believe my eyes. I worked at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. We were off three days and when we came back to work there was barb-wire fencing everywhere, lookouts on every main road, and sentries with M16s. It was a scary time coming to work under armed guards. One radio station played God Bless the USA for 72 hours straight. We were all affected in some way.

Senior Airman Tiffany Miles, AFDW Knowledge Operations Office

I was in my 8th grade science class taking a pop quiz and all of a sudden, a news flash came across the television. I'm originally from New York, and I watched as the plane went through the second twin tower and the videos of individuals jumping out of the building. I started crying thinking of my family and friends. Mr. Goody, from our small church, died that day. I just want the people who had family and friends killed in the tragedy to know that they are not alone.

Rose Holston, AFDW Information Technology

I was working in Rosslyn, Va. on my way to the Pentagon. It just so happened a co-worker intervened and I never made it to the Pentagon. After the planes crashed, a co-worker and I tried to retrieve Margo's car that was parked at the Pentagon. The Metro subway was closed, so we hopped on a very crowded bus. My cell phone had a good signal so I let some folks use it to make calls to their families. We rode around on the bus for about four hours around Virginia trying to find a way through - it usually only takes about 10 minutes to get from Rosslyn to the Pentagon.

We finally made it to Pentagon City, where folks were everywhere. Stores were closed but the hotel let us use the restrooms and get water. The Pentagon was right across the street, but we were told no one could get their car off the Pentagon lot. So when the Metro opened up, we hopped on the train. We finally made it to my car after about five hours. On the drive home I saw a big plane was landing and was so scared. Thank god, the plane was going to Andrews AFB.

Charlotte Smith, AFDW Budget Analyst

My husband was active-duty Air Force and we were stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan. It was 10 p.m. and the evening TV movie had just ended, so we turned the station to the Today Show - run live at night and rerun the next morning. The first plane had just hit when we turned the show on. Shortly afterwards, the second plane hit. That's when we realized this wasn't just an accident. As we watched, the third plane hit the Pentagon. We called our squadron's lieutenant because I knew she would still be awake. She called our commander, who called on up the chain.

It was surreal to look on the other side of the base fence and see business as usual in Japan when we were all quiet and closed down on base.

My children's elementary school wasn't opened again until the following week, and when school let out the parents had to show an ID card to pick their children up. Our school was a block from the main gate and security forces stationed an armed truck right outside.

Life didn't return to "normal" for many months at Misawa, and I cancelled a trip to the United States to visit my parents in October because I was concerned I would get back Stateside and not be allowed to return to Japan.