September 11 Digital Archive

Watching 9/11 on Active Duty


Watching 9/11 on Active Duty

How has your life changed because of what happened on September 11, 2001?

On September 11, 2001, I was an Active Duty soldier in the US Army; that day, I was on shift at a satellite operations facility located in the East China Sea. We were locked inside the facility as a typhoon was battering the island. We typically had CNN on the TV above the operations floor to help break the monotony and to keep up with current affairs in the US. When the news broke about the first plane, there was some commotion and everyone seemed uneasy about what was happening. Many of us watched as a reporter was covering the scene from nearby and as the second plane struck the second tower on live TV. No one at that point had any doubts that the US was under some kind of attack. While I had been selected by the Operations Officer to be the unit's Antiterrorism Officer a year prior, I didn't initially consider terrorism as the culprit. When news came that the Pentagon had also been struck by a plane, the mood amongst the two typhoon shifts was a mix of horror, anger, and uncertainty. I won't share operational details of what happened following the cowardly terrorist attack, but the events that day influenced my professional career and academic studies over the twenty years since.
I didn't know anyone who lost their life, or the life of a family member or friend, but a former girlfriend of one of my childhood friends was in Manhattan when it occurred. She emailed me a picture she took while she fled the area--a single image of the towers burning before they collapsed. I think of that photograph often around the anniversary of the attack.

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“Watching 9/11 on Active Duty,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed May 27, 2024,