9/11 inspired 1-79th FA Soldiers to serve

By 1st Lt. Johnathan CampSeptember 19, 2019

Day of remembrance
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Okla., Sept. 19, 2019 -- Sept. 11, 2001, will live on in infamy as one of America's most tragic losses of life.

It was a traumatic event that changed the world in a blink of an eye. On the 18th anniversary, the cadre, drill sergeants, and trainees of D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery took time to reflect.

"It is hard to believe that happened 18 years ago. I was a battery executive officer and all I felt was sadness for the families who lost friends and loved ones to the attack, and anxiety over what was going to happen in the future of the Army. Each time I see a unit like Delta Battery do a moment of silence for 9/11, it reminds me of how quiet the skies were above Fort Carson that day," said Lt. Col. Eric Kunak, battalion commander.

At 8:45 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly trapping hundreds in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a horrible freak accident.

Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767, United Airlines Flight 175, appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center, and smashed into the south tower near the 60th floor. Americans everywhere were in shock.

"For those of us old enough to have been alive on that fateful day, it is impossible to forget that moment - that very moment when our lives changed forever. It is a feeling that the next generation of the Army needs to understand," said Capt. Branden Buffalo, D Battery commander.

For Pvt. Robert Creel, the attack and the subsequent loss of life in the twin towers hit close to home.

"I lost one of my cousins in the south tower. I remember the aftermath of the attacks. The loss of my cousin hit my parents and grandparents really hard. It was a sad time in our family's history," Creel explained.

American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington, D.C., before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon at 9:45 a.m.

The fire caused a large amount of structural damage to the Department of Defense's headquarters as well as killing 125 military personnel and civilians.

Pvt. Jeremiah Johnson, a trainee with D/1-79th FA, is one of many with a personal connection to the day: "My dad deployed to Kuwait right after it happened. I remember I had just started preschool, and my dad was deployed by October. I didn't get to see him again until kindergarten. My uncle enlisted in the Army right after the attacks, and he was also deployed soon after. I enlisted because of both of them. I wanted to do my part to protect America from individuals like those that planned these attacks."

D/1-79th FA trainee Pvt. Marie Obannon remembers vividly, "I signed up because of 9/11. It is family tradition to sign up during a time of war to stop evil people from hurting innocents. My family has stood up against evil in World War II and in the Vietnam (War). This tragedy became my turn."

Pfc. Brianda Lopez was not in the United States at the time of the attack. She was still in Belize, her country of origin, and she was only 11 years old. When asked what the day meant to her, she said that it is important to memorialize those who died in the attacks, as well as those who died from the impending conflicts that followed.

"Selfless service is an Army value," she said, "and I believe the importance of the sacrifices the men and women made that day should be remembered."

United Flight 93 was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark Liberty International Airport, N.J.

Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone. The passengers fought the four hijackers and ultimately all lost their lives when the plane crashed near Shanksville, Pa.

Though I write this article from the perspectives of many others who faced this horror, the attack hit very close to home for me.

I grew up in Pennsylvania. I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I was in third grade, and we all stopped to watch the TV once news reached our classroom.

The World Trade Center had already been hit but had not collapsed. Then the Pentagon was hit.

When word of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania came, our teachers moved us to the gym to have the buses take us home.

Beyond that, what I remember most was the patriotic swell. Americans rushed to the armed forces recruiting offices to sign their names on the dotted line to defend our nation.

Every (department store) was sold out of American flags, and every home had patriotic signs and flags hanging on their porches.

I've never experienced a more patriotic moment in my lifetime than Sept. 12, 2001. We rallied around one another and supported each other. Shortly thereafter, we took the fight to the enemy to ensure something like this could never again hit this close to home.

Sgt. Jose Vallejo, a prior service Marine in basic combat training with D Battery was a little older being in junior high school.

"The tragedy didn't really hit home until I saw the crippling fear that was projected on my mom's face," he said. "It is our modern day's greatest tragedy and I am glad for the opportunity to continue my service to defend my country against those that wish another 9/11 on us or worse."

At the exact minutes the planes struck, the battery held a moment of silence for those who were killed. Although a small gesture compared to the totality of the event, it was a poignant moment for the drill sergeants, cadre, and trainees. Most of us have lost friends or family in either the attacks, or the ensuing wars that followed.

We all joined for one reason or another, but ultimately not one person could say their life hadn't been touched by 9/11.

A total of 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four jetliners. People from 78 countries died in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Today, we remember those who died and look to the future to safeguard our nation and protect those who cannot protect themselves. D Battery is currently training the next generation of Army warriors to defend the nation against attacks like this. It is important to remember our past experiences so history cannot repeat itself.