It was a typical Tuesday morning, I had arrived at my office in Camper Hall at William Fleming High School. I began my day as usual checking on paperwork, setting my schedule for the day, and then supervising students as they arrived to begin another day of education, the skies were clear and the sun was shinning brightly.
Students were in their first period classes and I in my office talking with my secretary and guidance counselor, as we finished I went back to work, after a few minutes Captain Mark Hutton who was teaching ROTC entered my office and said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I asked him if it was a small plane and he said they were not sure, so I left my office and crossed the hall to watch on a TV in the ROTC room. I can remember the students clearly dressed in their Air Force uniforms sitting there glued to the events unfolding in front of them. As they watch I remember watching the 2nd plane striking the World Trade Center and now knowing that this was unusual and had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
The bell rang to end first period and I remember that the kids were starting to discuss the planes in the hallways, the administrators watched the students hurry to class as they wanted to watch what was unfolding. As we tried to keep students and staff focused on education it was very difficult not to let your mind wonder to what was happening. Then news came that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and I knew that the United States was under attack and I realized that life as I had known it had changed forever. My mom was in Lewis Gale hospital is critical condition and close to death, I remember calling the nurses station and asking what was on the TV in my mom’s room and they said the news, I asked them to change the channel, as I knew that she could still process sounds and I did not want her to worry about my brothers who I had not been able to reach and had no idea where they were and whether they were in harms way.
During this time I was Chief of the Lexington Fire Department and I knew that everyone would be on edge as the nation had watched the towers collapse and that some of our brothers and sisters had died in this act of terrorism, along with hundreds if not thousands of innocent victims. Throughout the day I continued to reach out to my brothers to see if they were safe and this was to no avail. As the school day continued I remember wishing that this was a bad dream, and for once I was wishing for the day to be over, and as usual it continued to drag on. Right before the closing of school for the day I remember an announcement that all after school activities were canceled, this was so students, staff, and faculty could go home and be with their families. When the time came I remember leaving school and driving to Lewis Gale to see my mom, once there I talked to the nurses and they said that she was having a rough day, I went in and visited and when I left I leaned over and kissed her on the head and told her that all of us were OK and that we would take care of each other. I left and drove home, in fact I do not remember much of the drive as it was a blur. There was very little traffic for a Tuesday on the interstate and this along with the calmness in the skies made it a very weird trip.
Once home I hugged my family and remember sitting their watching the news and being engrossed with the images from earlier in the day. Later that evening I attended a fire association meeting and remember the meeting moving quickly and not much being said, we all returned home to our families. When I returned home my daughter and son were still up and asking many questions that as a dad I did not have answers for and struggled to explain to them. After the kids went to bed I was able to reach my older brothers, one was in the Coast Guard in Rhode Island, and the other had been at the Pentagon and said that he was OK, as he had been on the other side of the structure, those phone calls were such a relief. It was not until the next day that I heard from my younger brother who had been at a NEMA meeting, and that night he and others who had been at the meeting were flown home along with their families on a C-130 with F-15 escorts. Once I knew they were all safe it was a tremendous feeling of relief.
We need to ensure that we never forget the events of that day so that type of attack is never allowed to take place again, we are “One Nation under God” and if we live divided as a nation then we will die a divided nation.
God Bless the United States of America.