9/11. It’s a date every adult American in their upper 20’s or older knows. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard what was happening. It was a day that changed our history and is thus indelibly imprinted upon us, same as Kennedy’s assassination to Americans over 65 and Pearl Harbor for ones over 85. It’s not necessary to write the year 2001. It’s like we baseball fans all know a person means Babe Ruth if they just say Babe; if someone says 9/11, we know it means 9/11/2001.
Because we all remember exactly what we were doing that day, we all have stories. Today is the 20th anniversary of the event. There will be various memorials, commemorations, and moments of silence. I thought I would share my story here.
As I have posted before, I spent many years as a physician in the US Air Force. 9/11 came at nearly the half way point of my career. I was what is called a flight surgeon—that means I was the doctor for the aviators and their families. As part of that, I would fly with those aviators, whether barfing in the back of a fighter jet doing air to air training (I never got used to that) or going wherever cargo planes were going. In 2001, I was assigned to a C-17 unit (big cargo aircraft, I loved those). That September, I was part of a crew sent to Germany to spend a few weeks hauling cargo various places. We got to Ramstein AB on 9/10 and got housed off base in a hotel in Landstuhl. The following morning we had no obligations, so I went on a hike up to a nearby castle. I love castles and never miss the chance to visit one. As I was nearing the hotel on my way back, I bumped into the crew commander who told me a plane had just flown into the WTC in New York. We assumed it was a private plane illegally buzzing downtown NYC and accidentally crashing into a building. When we got to the hotel and turned on German TV, we of course knee immediately that we were wrong. It was only moments later that we watched live as a second airliner struck the second tower.
The commander then got notified that Ramstein was on lockdown—nobody was getting on or off base. We sat at that hotel, just watching and waiting, for the next 4 days. On the 4th day, we were recalled to the base and sent straight away on a mission delivering (things) to Jordan.
I’ll stop there. Never forget that day.