I immediately called my boss and asked what he wanted me to do. He asked me to return to the Pentagon. While we were still on the phone, I heard a loud explosion in the background, and asked what was that noise? “I think we just got hit with a truck bomb, I got to go,” he responded. I later learned that American Airlines Flight 77. In all, 189 people, including 64 aboard the plane, died.
Our group immediately returned to our hotel, picked up our luggage and drove to the airport. Since all flights were cancelled, we drove through the night and arrived at the Pentagon at 6 the next morning. Smoke was still rising from the building, and my office was destroyed. I did not return to a permanent office until eight months later after.
Looking back on 9/11, the lesson for all Americans should be that we were vulnerable to terrorist attacks then and continue to be now. There are people in this world who hate our way of life. They want our nation destroyed. We must always prevent any terrorist attack. The terrorist only needs to be occasionally successful to kill Americans. Freedom is not free; we must continue to want it and defend it. Freedom will only last as long as the next generation is willing to defend it. It cannot be taken for granted. I truly wonder at times if they are since approximately 1% of the population is willing to serve?
Stephen Marsh retired as lieutenant colonel from the United State Army. He currently lives in Beavercreek.