What I remember most about 9/11 was seeing my coworker cry.
We were in Germany at the US Army Transportation Management Center Europe. We were working on accounting bills for soldier travel throughout the theater. My coworker from downstairs came to our office and told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. We didn’t believe him at first. But we followed him down the stairs to a little radio at someone’s desk and we gathered around the radio listening to the broadcast in shock….especially when the towers fell. I remember bringing my hands cupped to my face and I remember that my coworker began crying very hard.
We left work early and I caught a ride to Vilseck. Everywhere all over the military bases, the soldiers were in formation. It was an eerie sight to behold. The woman I caught a ride with also was upset. Her husband was Infantry and she was certain we would be going to war and the soldiers in Germany would be sent first. Turns out, I think it was the Big Red One soldiers from my home state of Kansas at Ft. Riley that got activated first.
The day of the attack, she dropped me off at my husband’s unit where the soldiers there were also gathered in formation. My husband was a 1st Lieutenant at the time. He began pulling double duty shifts for three or four weeks after that. He and his soldiers would work during the day and help guard the gates of Vilseck at night. I remember that we went to Threatcon Delta immediately. I also remember that the German government sent German soldiers to guard our families too and protect us.
The next day after 9/11, I left for work at 2 am in the morning and it took many, many hours to get through security. If I close my eyes now, I can picture the long line of cars in the darkness and the soldiers at the gates checking and carefully inspecting each and every vehicle. We lived off base in a small community called Auerbach. The military commanders at Vilseck sent 2 humvees filled with 4 or 5 armed soldiers with helmets and kevlar equipment and big guns to guard our small community at night. The soldiers protected our families every night for weeks and we would go out there to give them coffee and hot chocolate at times.
I remember sitting in my German duplex in the nights that followed the attack and watching the news endlessly. I remember the conversations with the other wives….all our husbands were working overtime…..and so we gathered around at patio tables to discuss things. We were all kinda worried about the potential of war.
The hardest part about 9/11 was seeing the jumpers out of the World Trade Center buildings. It brought tears to my eyes then. 20 years later, the images still bring tears to my eyes.
The attacks were horrible but GW Bush was right in his latest speech at Shanksville today. 9/11 unified the American people unlike anything I have seen since. It didn’t matter what you looked like, what you prayed, what your background……you were an American. We were Americans together and we felt the pain and suffering on 9/11 together. In some respects, I miss that collective unity……..how in the face of adversity, devastation, and malevolence, the best and brightest of human connection rises to the surface to counter it.
Remember 9/11 but most of all, remember that unity when the American people came together and the many nations of the world such as Germany also stood by our side to offer support, respect, and condolences. God bless America.