September 11, 2014 --
Poll 1,000 American adults with the question, “Where were you on 9/11?” and without hesitation, it is likely that 1,000 responses would be immediate.
There are not very many people who don’t remember exactly where they were and exactly what they were doing on that infamous September day.
In commemoration of the day — which left a trail of emotions — from disbelief to tears, from grief to outrage, many across the nation will pause in some way to pay tribute to those who perished on that fateful day in 2001.
Some of the installation’s personnel gave personal accounts of that day, the impact it had on them at the time and the long-term effects that remain, even after 13 years.
Ricky Brock, equipment specialist/contractor, Marine Corps Systems Command, was on active duty in the Navy and was teaching a class of Marines at the time one of the planes hit the Pentagon.
“I was in Springfield, Virginia, and was in the process of transitioning from the Navy to civilian life,” Brock recalled. “I was teaching a Marine Corps class on a program the Department of Defense had developed.
“After the first planes hit (the towers), the Blackberries went off and that’s when we were notified,” he said. “When we found out that the Pentagon was hit, they wanted us to keep working. Many of the leadership there felt that whoever (had done) this was not going to dictate to us how we functioned. They were not going to control us, so we continued to teach the class.”
According to Brock, the building where he was teaching was about two miles from the Pentagon and although he could not hear the plane that hit the building, the flight path actually flew that plane directly over the building where his classroom was located.
“We really didn’t get the full impact of what was going on until we broke for lunch and everyone was standing around (watching) TV,” according to Brock. “At 5 o’clock that day, when we left (class), the Interstate 95 was completely empty. A friend of mine
drove up to the exit to the Pentagon and we saw the impact site. It was very heart-wrenching.”
Brock said they offered to assist in whatever capacity they could, but were told everything was under control and were denied access to the crash site.
“So, we just knelt and prayed, right there in the middle of I-95,” he admitted as tears welled in his eyes. “It was very emotional for us. Even now, the smell of jet fuel immediately takes me back to that day.”
Grady Broadnex, war reserve/systems analyst, Operations Directorate, Marine Corps Logistics Command, shared his recollection of his whereabouts and the impact 9/11 had on him.
“I was off work that day and was about to do my exercise when I heard something on the television saying that a small plane had hit one of the towers,” Broadnex shared. “At the time the reporter was speaking, another plane came along and I could see that it was not a small plane. Right away, I knew that it was a terrorist. I saw the hit and that part was shocking.
“During that time, I watched in disbelief and I realized what had happened,” he said. “The first person I phoned was my wife, who was in Dallas. She had just viewed it also. It seems that everyone was seeing it at the same time and was having the same reaction.”
Broadnex commented on how he felt emotionally after the impact of what he had just witnessed started to sink in.
“It took a while to sink in,” he said. “I felt anger because I realized at that time it was a terrorist act. I (also) felt helpless because I saw the aftermath, with all of the injured people and the fatalities.”
Broadnex, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, had a friend who worked in the Pentagon as a security guard on the day of the tragic event.
“I thought about my friend, a retired Marine, who was a security guard at the Pentagon,” he remembered. “(I found out) he had just left for a lunch break when the plane (crashed into the building). He would have been right there in that spot where the plane hit had he not been off-site at lunch.”
“Being a Marine,” Broadnex admitted, his first feelings were “revenge and retaliation toward whomever had done this.”
Although the memories of 9/11 are forever etched in his mind, he admitted, over the years he has held onto something positive, which he says came out of that horrible day.
“Today, it’s more about the memory of the lives that were lost and how it brought us all together,” he reflected. “That is the part I think about. Everyone gave; the police department, the fire department and everyone was respectful to each other.
“I have a 6-year-old granddaughter and what I do with her is talk about it,” he added. “A lot of times we don’t talk about things and we forget. It’s very important to talk and share in hopes that we won’t (ever) forget.”
Lt. Cmdr. Raymond Bristol, officer-in-charge, Naval Branch Health Clinic, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, who was on temporary additional duty on 9/11, reflected on how the day began for him.
“I was TAD to Bethesda, Maryland, taking a course in the hospital tower there when we started getting the news reports about an airplane crash (in New York),” Bristol said. “Initially, I assumed they were still trying to decipher what it was. Then, all of a sudden when the second plane crashed they really started pulling us out of class. They eventually put the class on hold and sent us all back to our hotel rooms just until they could figure out what was going on.”
Shortly after that, another plane crashed into the Pentagon, which Bristol estimated was geographically situated about 20-30 miles from his location at the time.
After reports of the third, then fourth plane had crashed, Bristol said he knew it was not accidental but deliberate acts of terrorism.
“I started to then try and figure out, ‘What is the significance of this day?’” he questioned. “It be-came pretty clear by the end of the day that this was not an accident; it was an intentional act and in my mind, at least, I was able to make that connection to 9-1-1.
“It was a great feeling of sorrow for me because, at that time, we didn’t know exactly how many people were affected, how many were killed or injured but you knew the numbers were large, especially in the New York crashes,” Bristol reflected.
For most Americans, “9/11 is a day of reflection;” it also seems to be the consensus for base personnel, including Bristol, who shared his personal thoughts on how he commemorates the day.
“Usually, I just try to reflect on that day — mostly tied to the loss of life,” Bristol recalled. “Now, tens-of-thousands of families have been affected by not only the events on that day but also subsequent events, from going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the ongoing battles that we are now having. To me, (9/11 is about) reflecting on all of that, being grateful for what I have and never taking any day for granted.”