Remembering 9/11

I remember 9/11 very vividly. For me, it was very personal: an aircraft from my airline (American), crashed into the Pentagon, killing an old friend and squadron mate—Commander Daniel “Spike” Shanower, a great guy and a great Intel Officer.

I sat with my son, Leland (III) a couple of days later; he was 15 and had grown up on Navy bases. The suddenly patriotic press was gushing over America.

“How long do you think this will last?” he asked.

I thought it was very prescient for a teenager. I couldn’t lie to him.

“It will be fashionable for a while, and then they will forget and go back to bashing America.”

He nodded, not doubting my words. I felt some guilt for my pessimistic comment but having grown up in the seventies, I had seen the cycle before. I was in ROTC on the campus of the University of Missouri and had absorbed the anti-military barbs of students and faculty. That suddenly changed when the hostages were taken in Iran.

I explained to my son that some people have to sacrifice so that the rest can live in peace. September 11, 2001 brought it home. But just like with Pearl Harbor, it would be forgotten—except by the few who will take the watch.

Four years later, Leland left that same college campus after his freshman year and joined the Army. He went to the Suni Triangle as a machine gunner with the 10th Mountain Division. Being patriotic was no longer fashionable, but he still took the watch. Thankfully, he returned to us, wearing a Purple Heart and a Combat Infantry Badge.

That same year, his brother, David joined him, enlisting in the Air Force. He is a Crew Chief on the B-2 bomber for the Air Guard while in flight school at Central Missouri State. Their sister, Kaitlyn is in nursing school and plans on the Air Force. Their youngest brother, William (still in high school) wants to be a Marine. My wife and I didn’t encourage the military life; to be honest, we discouraged it. After 21 years, we knew how hard and dangerous a lifestyle it is.

They answered the call.

This is dedicated to the young men and women who are Patriots, not when it is in style, but when it is the hardest.

2 comments on “Remembering 9/11
  1. Rick says:

    I was in NYC that morning. I had just installed my youngest son at NYU, and he was living in a dorm on lower Broadway. I stayed in NY for an industry event, and was driving southbound on the Westside Highway when it happened. I didn’t see it at first, but my wife called me and told me to look at the World Trade Center. I nearly had an accident from being stunned at the sight of it. Suddenly all hell broke loose with emergency services vehicles screaming with their sirens and rushing downtown…and then the Westside Highway was closed and that was that…everything stopped. And then the second impact, which I did see. But suddenly my son’s mom was in a panic for what was his location/situation…so I spent the next 4 hours in a search for him. Not easy…no phone service. Smoke and foul smell everywhere. I finally found him in a line with his classmates to give blood. That was of course, a noble, but useless endeavor under the circumstances. Anyway, the next many days were spent in that rental car…3 days to get out of New York, and another 3 days to drop a colleague in St. Louis, and then to my home at the time in San Antonio. All along that journey were fellow displaced air travelers, including several pilots I met along the way home. When I finally got to San Antonio to return my Hertz rental, it was jammed with hundreds of other vehicles of people coming home after being displaced at some airport all over the United States. All in all, a major event I will never forget for the rest of my life. In the meantime, after being so impacted by 9/11, I remain blessed that I have any personal loss from that event other than just being there.

  2. Chip says:

    A memorable day, especially to be at ground zero.

    I was lucky, I was home answering the phone all day. A few days later when they let the crews fly the airliners home (empty) I was watching a kids soccer game. Everything stopped and everyone looked up when an MD-80 flew overhead. It was surreal; that’s when it hit me how quiet it had been.