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  3. DHS Remembers 9/11: When 9/11 Happened, I Was...

DHS Remembers 9/11: When 9/11 Happened, I Was...

Release Date: September 7, 2021

I was stationed in New Orlean​s. I had planned to retire in a few years, but after 9/11 I wanted to continue my public service and help secure the U.S. Ports and Waterways. The uncertainty of the times made me feel there would be another attack if we did not harden our ports. I serve because I like the many different missions I have been a part of, to include Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement, and Environmental Protection. Also the great opportunity of working with other DHS organizations, such as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, just to name a few.

– CDR Scott Kirkland, USCG​​


I was just returning from AIT as a US Army Reserve Service Member and was assigned to the US Army Reserve 311th Quarter Master Co. I thought I would be starting my first year of college but immediately after the attack occurred, the 311th requested volunteers to serve as First Responders and the recovery of personnel. Although I was young and had other ambitions, I knew that serving and supporting my community and country was one of great privileges an individual may have. Without hesitation, I volunteered.

I worked in the rubbles of what was the Right E wing of the Pentagon. Thereafter, I was given the opportunity to help the survivors of the attack find their personnel effects that we had recovered from the crash site. It was an honor to help during such a difficult time. The experience forever changed me, realizing the fragility of life and learning to leave behind a legacy worthy for those that are no longer with us.

– Jessica Mendez, USCG


​​When 9/11 happened, I was the Command Duty Officer (CDO) in the Atlantic Area/Fifth District Command Center. I received a phone call from NORAD grounding all aircraft. Any aircraft still flying and detected by NORAD was going to be intercepted by fighters. CG District 7 had just launched a MH-65 helicopter for a SAR case offshore of Charleston, SC. As soon as the call was over, I relayed the order to District 7 to abort the helicopter sortie and pursue the SAR case using surface assets. It was a day of difficult circumstances and decisions. It was also a day of firsts for my career. It was the first and only time I used the Government Emergency Telephone System (GETS) to contact CG Activities New York on Staten Island for an operational update for the Atlantic Area Commander. The NYC telephone network was overloaded due to the loss of a critical AT&T phone switch in one of the World Trade Center towers. A very nice and calm telephone operator used her special access to connect me with the CG Activities NY command center. Activities NY was in the midst of managing the boatlift of people from lower Manhattan. It was a day I will always vividly remember.

– ​CAPT Jason Ryan, USCG


I was working for Headquarters, US Marine Corps as a Civilian employee in the Office of the Director of Intelligence at the Navy Annex across from Henderson Hall, Arlington VA, just up the hill From the Pentagon. I worked closely with a US Navy office in the Pentagon that I had an appointment with that morning, and was preparing to go outside to catch the shuttle to the Pentagon River entrance.

When the attack on the World Trade Center started, I postponed my trip. We were watching the coverage on NBC when our current Intel watch came into our office and announced that there were two highjacked aircraft headed towards the Washington DC area, and that the Pentagon was a possible target. I was standing there talking with my USMC colleagues about how to secure our classified material, when we heard the airliner fly over the Navy Annex.  We did not hear the explosion, because we were at the opposite end of the building from the Pentagon, but we could see people on the sidewalk on Columbia Pike running and pointing. The building alarms sounded, and we evacuated the building.

As we came out the front of the Navy Annex, we could see down the hill to the Pentagon, and we could plainly see the hole in the first and second floors, and the fires erupting from the building. Most of the Marines immediately started running down the hill towards the Pentagon. We, the civilians, were told to go home and not come back until called.

I walked slowly towards my car on Henderson Hall, and came upon two Marines with a pile of gear at their feet and a manual in their hands. I asked them if they needed help, and they told me they were tasked with setting up a Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ) on the Soccer field at Henderson Hall. From my time in the military I knew something about that, so we launched into laying out the HLZ and I gave the Marines a tutorial on landing Helicopters on the HLZ. It felt good to be doing something.

A Navy field hospital unit arrived at Henderson Hall from Naval Hospital Bethesda and set up in the Gymnasium, and immediately ambulances started arriving from the Pentagon. Alas, no Helicopters utilized our humble HLZ, but it was ready for them! At about 2 PM, I got in my car and drove home.  Of note, the office that I was supposed to be heading to that morning was destroyed in the attack.

​– Robert Hale, I&A​


Last Updated: 09/07/2021
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