Reflections on 9/11

  • Published
  • By Linda Frost
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
September marks a decade since terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. As we approach the 10-year anniversary of this horrific day, let's not forget to pause and reflect for a moment. We all live busy lives but it's important we share our memories to help the younger generation understand respect for our country and the people who pay the price to keeping us safe and preserving our nation's freedom.

On that dismal day, I never imagined that I would be working at Wilford Hall Medical Center 10 years later. Ironically, on 9/11, I was sitting in one of the clinics at Wilford Hall, waiting for my appointment. My head was buried in a magazine, when I suddenly looked up and noticed everyone staring in shock at the TV. At first, I thought, "How strange. What show on TV is that good?" It was then, I looked up and saw the plane hit. Destruction. Smoke. Confusion. I couldn't grasp it. Everyone around me stood in shock. No one knew what to say or do. But, we all watched and waited together. The medical staff in the clinic started scrambling. There was a brief delay and then business carried on as usual, but security on base was immediately heightened. It wasn't until I drove off Lackland Air Force Base, my fear set in. I was scared for my family, myself and America. To this day, I am so thankful to be a part of an organization that cares about people and making a difference between life and death. I am proud to work side by side with Airmen and civilians who make incredible sacrifices for our country to make the world a safer and healthier place.

For many, Sept. 11 was a time of loss. For others, a time to remember why they wear the uniform. For some, it was motivation to join the Air Force. Some of our 59th Medical Wing team members shared their memories of 9/11. Here are their responses:

Tech. Sgt. Drake Wilmore, Medical Service Technician, 559th Aerospace Medicine Squadron: "It kept me in the Air Force. I had a great paying job lined up and had returned from Incirlik Air Base in support of Northern Watch just 20 days before. I was working in the emergency room at Malcolm Grow Hospital, Joint Base Andrews, Md., when the first plane hit the towers. By the time the second plane hit we were already going full swing into Delta. Once the plane hit the Pentagon, it became really surreal...we had several staff members with husbands and wives as well as fellow co-workers working there. We first set up the gym as a contingency aeromedical staging facility, and then we were informed that we would in fact send two ambulance buses to the Pentagon. I was the lead medic on bus number two. We were given a brief en route about the types of injuries and fatalities we would see. Nothing could have prepared me for the smell of jet fuel and burned bodies we encountered. We transported 40 patients back that day and sadly while there, one of our doctors learned that her husband was killed in the attack. It was the longest ride back to Malcolm Grow I have ever experienced. I didn't make it home until 11:45 that night. In all the chaos, I had forgotten that I had to pick my daughter up from the child development center. To my surprise, my wife was home with our daughter. One of the CDC workers knew I worked in the ER had suspected I would no doubt be busy. She drove her to my house in Waldorf, and thankfully my wife, who had been in Pennsylvania, rented a car and drove back home. It was at that moment I knew I could not and would not leave the military. After hearing our commander in chief speak at the Twin Tower site, we, at Malcolm Grow Hospital, were ready to do whatever. I volunteered to go back to Incirlik Air Base in preparation for war. I ended up in (Southwest Asia)...we went from a 10-bed Expeditionary Medical Support facility to a 50-bed with a surgical suite. Working in 150 degree weather with the Red Horse Squadron was by far one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. After the war ended, I deployed to Iraq for the first of four times in 2003. Seeing a country so many times divided, come together and unite as one, still feels my heart with pride, and that is why you will have to take this uniform away from me because I will never give it up."

Tech. Sgt. Carlos Claudio, Ophthalmic Technician, 59th Medical Operations Group: "I was stationed at Yokota AB, Japan when 9/11 happened. I was living off base at the time and the entire base went into lock down. So I was not able to get on base for 48 hours. I was asleep when my mother called and informed me of the events. I was so shocked. I had to watch Japanese TV news and even though I couldn't understand, it still tore at my heart. I have family in New York and I was happy to hear that they were not near the towers. I was also one of the first Airmen to pull Security Forces augmentee after 9/11. Before that, I had not held an M-16 since basic training (five years earlier). I knew of terrorist acts that had happened around the world but I never would have suspected that they would happen in America."

As you take a moment to pause and reflect on this 10-year anniversary of 9/11, for whatever reason it may be, let's not forget it is a chance to pay tribute and respect to a generation that has borne the burden for our security during a decade of war. More than two million of our troops have served in war zones, deploying more than 2.5 million times, and 6,200 Americans have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.