Needless to say, the impact on that day changed my life forever. Gone was the belief that our country’s borders were safe from foreign attack. Gone was the security blanket and the innocence of an entire generation of people that never knew what it was like to enjoy that security and feelings of protection. If we had only known 11 months prior to 9/11 when the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen, we might have seen this coming. My last deployment was on the Amphibious Assault ship, USS Tarawa. After I separated in October 1998, the USS Tarawa was first on the scene two years later when the USS Cole was nearly sunk pier-side. The Chief who had worked for me had volunteered to be one of the first responders on the USS Cole. What he shared with me made me very mad. That attack occurred nearly one year prior to 9/11 and I believe it was a test to see how we would respond.
On September 11, 2001 I had been out of active service of the USN for about 3 years and had started my new career as a financial advisor in Kansas City. On that day, I was readying for work when my wife yelled upstairs for me to turn on the TV. I, along with millions of others, watched as the first of the twin towers was burning. As a former Naval Aviator I was well aware of instrument and VFR flight paths. As I was trying to reconcile how an aircraft could possibly have an accident with a building, the other plane appeared on the screen. About the time I yelled down to my wife that the plane shouldn’t be there, it hit the second trade center. For the next hour, I watched the terrorists successfully complete their mission into the Pentagon but fall short in a Pennsylvania field.
It was but two hours later that I received a chilling call from a former flight school Marine Corps roommate who was flying for Delta Airlines. He told me one of our friends, a former Marine C-130 aviator, was the co-pilot of the United Airlines flight that hit the second tower. Another one of my former roommates was in the air over the Midwest when the WTC was attacked and he was ordered to land at Kansas City International Airport.
My children, now adults, know these stories…I tell them again and again so they will never forget. They also know I fly my flag at my home daily. And they know when to put it up or take it down if I cannot. God bless the souls we lost that day, the families left behind, and all the first responders who didn’t make it back home that day. Never Forget!
-Kirby W. Bock, Lieutenant, US Navy