Tom Flanagan’s 9/11 Memory

I took off on a flight to Miami from Washington Reagan at about 0730 on 9/11/2001. While in the air the pilot told us a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center Towers. He didn’t say what kind of plane so I thought maybe a small private plane. A little longer he said a second plane had hit and I immediately knew it was a terrorist attack. Shortly after we were put quickly on the ground in Charleston SC. As I got off the plane I saw the TV showing the collapse of the twin Towers. It was surreal. I rented the last available car and drove back to DC. I could smell the smoke from the Pentagon as I turned off of 95 onto Rt 1 through Old Town Alexandria. As I pulled into the parking lot at Reagan Airport to retrieve my car and I was met by heavily armed police who told me to come back tomorrow. I drove home around midnight right past the still burning Pentagon. My thoughts were how easily I could have been on one of those planes. As it turns out I lost two of my cousins who worked at the top of the Twin Towers, a classmate from Annapolis who was the pilot on one of the planes that hit the towers, and the plane that hit the Pentagon hit the Navy Command Center that I had commanded just 6 years before. Since then both of my sons have volunteered to serve our nation in the war to bring those responsible to justice. My oldest was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and Iraq as an Army Captain, and my youngest is a 2nd LT in the USMC. We will never forget, and I will never forget how what started as such an ordinary day would change the world we live in so dramatically.

Tom Flanagan USN Retired.