I was serving in the military at the time, and working the swing shift, which meant I worked from about 2 PM to 11 PM at night. I was living in Alexandria City, not more than 15 minutes from Arlington. Anyway, my apartment complex was replacing the balconies, which meant they were jackhammering away at concrete. I had rather gotten used to the sound as I slept, as it had been going on for at least a few months by that time. Well, there I was, fast asleep when at around 9:30 or so, the jackhammering stopped. That actually woke me up. I looked at my clock and looked at my window, couldn't look through it because the blinds were closed, but I wondered, why are they stopping? It's pretty early for lunch. Well, oh well. I actually had trouble going to sleep because it was so quiet.
Around 12 PM I woke up to begin getting ready for work. I felt it peculiar that they had not begun with the jackhammering again. No mind, it was a beautiful day outside. I got ready for work the same as pretty much any other day, getting dressed in my blues. I actually turned on the radio this day to try and hear some music before I left, but instead of music, I was hearing reports of students in DC schools being released early. I looked out the window wondering, why? There's no extreme weather.
I kept trying to get the reason why they were releasing students but it seems that every time they may have reported it, I had my head in the refrigerator or I had gone into the bathroom so I didn't find out.
When I got on the elevator, there were a few people in there with me and they were looking at me funny. I was thinking what? When we reached the bottom floor I noticed that a LOT of military officers were coming in. All I could think was, damn, I really don't feel like saluting all these people on the way to the car! I looked around with a "what's going on here?" look on my face. Finally one of the gentlemen who had been on the elevator with me said, "You don't know what happened? Somebody blew up the Pentagon!" I stood there frozen for a second and said "what the hell?!" The second thought in my mind was I really gotta get to work!
I swear that was one of the easiest drives up to Ft. Meade I'd ever had. Everyone was on the other side trying to leave DC. As I was driving on 295 around Bolling, I looked across the Potomac River to see a HUGE black plume of smoke hovering over where the Pentagon was. It looked like a bomb testing site. I said "oh my God!" to myself. I attempted to call my mother to tell her I was alright but I couldn't get through.
When I arrived on post, the entire parking lot was cleared out save for a few cars. All the civilians and non-essential personnel had been released. When I arrived to my duty section my supervisor was relieved to see me. He said that he'd been trying to call me repeatedly to see if I was alright because he knew I lived down in Alexandria, close to the Pentagon. It was at this time I finally saw what had happened.
The TVs in the shop were pretty much always set to CNN. I watched in utter stupor as they replayed the planes crashing into the Twin Towers over and over again. I think it was for this reason that I became a bit numb to the whole thing. I was like watching instant replay over and over again. I couldn't believe my eyes. I was too stunned to even cry. All I could say is "what do you need me to do?" My boss told me that there was nothing special that we had been ordered to do, just sit rack and see what we picked up. I can't recall how long it was before I was able to get in touch with my mom, but she said she'd been trying to call me too.
In the days that followed I began to see more and more footage of the horrific incidents, the pictures of people leaping from windows rather than perish in flames. I began hearing more stories of people's experiences, and learned that one of my friends had lost many friends in NYC because the were first responders and at the Pentagon. I think being bombarded by it all served to steel me.
For weeks after that, every night on break I would call my mom and tell her that no matter what happened, if anything happened to me not to get mad (like Cindi Sheehan). This was what I had chosen, and if I was to die, that it would have been for my family and country. Since Ft. Meade was so close to BWI Airport, we were all on edge about what appeared to be low lying planes. We were told that facilities like ours may potentially be targets for future strikes.
Soon after they began recruiting troops to deploy overseas. I volunteered to go to Afghanistan but was refused. I guess they didn't need me at that time.
To this day I don't think I've cried still. I think I'm still filled with a bit of rage but at the same time hope that we will rebuild and be strong. People all over the world will know that we are still a great and resilient country.