11 September 2007

My 9/11/01

My crew and I were in Clearwater Florida delivering the President’s Helicopter ground/maintenance crews of Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), "The Nighthawks,” with parts and an engine. We went out the night before...the usual for a TDY crew... Hooters for dinner and then out to find some bars, sort of stoked to be on a presidential support mission. But we only took the first half. We just had to drop them off and then home in the morning.... My Pilot and I were to be in the Simulator the next day.
We took off like it was any other flight...but I can't tell you how quickly that had changed. At first everyone including the air controllers were confused...mistaking the initial report for a small plane. (Or was it hoping that it had been a small plane)... then slowly more and more info was being relayed to us. We were discussing how if the weather was good.... No one could accidentally hit those huge buildings...and also remember, we had no visuals at all...only mental pictures...somehow it was relayed to us that they needed the plane back incase the Group needed to send them out for some reason. So through much coordination we did not have to land at a close airport...slowly it got more and more quiet in the air as the planes all landed. By the time we flew over DFW seeing all the planes on the ground and none in the air (most of the time you can spot 20 or so planes in the area taking off or landing. The controllers were all very short but to the point, but scared at the same time. Almost too professional. The talk over the radios were so different than all other flights I have ever been on... instead of direction the controllers were giving us updates.... for almost 2 hours after we heard about the buildings falling...no one said a word other than to talk to ATC or to run a checklist...We landed back at Our base and let the maintainers have back their plane so they could get her ready for alert status. We were told to go to debrief and then into the squadron. Security was already so very tight. A guy I had known for 4 years was asking to see my ID to go into the squadron... and at every door the same. The only people where were in the squadron were the people checking IDs, the higher-ups, and the schedulers...just as we figured we were sent home to go to bed and enter Bravo alert (have to be able to get to base and take the plane off in two hours). I could not do this, I could not sleep. I just entered my apartment and turned on the TV...it was my first glimpse of what had happened. I was in shock. The mental pictures could not compare to the reality. For three days I did nothing but sit on alert and watch TV. I could not stop...
I remember being so damn angry, not sad. Not scared, but pissed off that this happened on our own soil.

I flew again three days later. Everyone was still in shock. No one said a word save the few commands we have in the plane...Everyone was calling each other by their real names. No nicknames...no jokes. No small talk. We were delivering Gas Generators to McGuire AFB and into NYC in case they needed them. In case something else was to happen. As we got home the next day we had our orders in our hands. We were deploying. And fast. The prep for war had already started.
After the shock of what I saw on TV had settled...all I did was pray... Pray for our Country to stay strong. I prayed for my brothers and sisters in the military to stay safe. And thanked God that we had G.W. Bush in Office to see us through.

I was not a daddy then heck, I wasn't even married yet. Every time I had deployed after 9/11 I knew what we were fighting for. Those pictures of my wife and kids in my flight helmet reminded me of all those daddies and mommies that died that day in those very tall buildings who for no fault of their own will never see their families again. Their families left with a never healing wound. We must keep in mind who are enemy is. We must keep in mind what they will continue to do to us. We must never falter from our fight. Keep steady. Keep firm and every day kiss your kids. Kiss your Wife and most of all, pray to God.


Cathy said...

Thanks for sharing your remembrance.

We live close to CVG airport and those days immediately following 9/11 were so eerie... the quiet was unnerving. I will never forget how dead quiet the skies were. The only comfort was seeing the military aircraft flying high up in the sky, but even that was unsettling... knowing they were looking for the enemy...

HerkEng said...

It was a very odd time. Those few hours (the last 2 when we were the only aircraft left in the air) was a painful time....something I will never re live and not many people ever will.

It is still strange to look at the pictures of all the airliners stacked up around these small airports scattered all over the ramps and taxiways. a sight that we will hopefully never have to witness again.