Dallas-Ft. Worth Remembers 9/11

Gary Brock

9-11 memories

Mansfield TX

I checked in to the Norfolk naval base on Sept. 10, to ensure that my security clearances were in place and to orient / introduce myself onboard ship. I was scheduled to begin training Navy personnel on my company’s system on Tuesday, Sept 11, 2001. I started 9-11 having to report damage to the bumper guard from an exposed nail in a parking stanchion in the dockside parking lot. I vividly remember hearing a report of the first plane strike on the radio as I was leaving the rental company lot. At the time the announcer did not know if it was a private or commercial aircraft. I was onboard ship when words and images of the second plane strike are being broadcast before I could start the class. I remember everyone scrambling to find televisions anywhere that they could. I remember the shock, anger and tears on the faces of our nation’s defenders as news of the second strike and the attack on the Pentagon and downing of Flight 93 are viewed in disbelief. The initial disorientation and confusion is quickly replaced with resolve and orders as the base is quickly locked down for threat assessment. All civilians are ordered to exit the base and as I leave along with my local colleague, I notice the concrete barriers already in place at the gate and the line of cars with military personnel being painstakingly verified by the guards. The world has changed… no longer is it sufficient to be wearing a military uniform to be granted base access; identification badges are closely scrutinized as sailors and marines are recalled to duty. My colleague and I find a deli near base and discuss our options as we watch the towers collapse and the horrific aftermath. I contact my wife to let my family know that I am all right. Conferences with contractor and government program management bring a decision to forget the training and return home. Of course all air travel has been canceled so I spend that afternoon getting authorization to return my rent car in Texas and watching the news over and over again in my hotel room. With my emotions running wild, I am unable to sleep at all, so instead of leaving after daybreak as planned, I check out of my hotel around 3:00 AM and hit the road. Of course the streets are deserted, but even when rush hour should be in full swing, I don’t encounter much traffic at all. I assume that the country is still pretty much in shock and many are just staying home to make sense of this new world. I stop on the west side of Knoxville Tn. for some lunch when I get a phone call from my colleague. The ship’s command has determined that my training class is mission critical and I am ordered back to Norfolk ASAP. I drive the 500 or so miles back and report to the ship, ready for training by 0800 on Sept 13. I spend eight of the next twelve months at various locations around the world, providing programmatic support for the war on terrorism. The program receives numerous messages, letters of appreciation from the using units, stating that our efforts / products contribute greatly to the saving of American lives. I remember this time with considerable grief in my heart because of the overall tragedy, but I also look back with as much pride as my service in Vietnam. God WILL bless America.

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