If you ask most adults what they remember about Sept. 11, 2001, they can tell you exactly where they were, whom they were with and what they were thinking. It's a day that will forever be with them.
20 years later, Sgt. 1st Class Luis Quinones, a cyber network defender assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, remembers this somber day in American history like it was yesterday.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Luis Quinones, a native of Brooklyn, New York, arrived at his office building at 4 Times Square, New York, New York.
“As I walked to my desk, I noticed everyone was glued to the window, so I asked one of my co-workers what they were looking at,” said Quinones. “They pointed to the World Trade Center and said it’s on fire.”
It wasn’t long after that when they heard on the radio that a plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex. Then the unthinkable happened.
“I heard someone say, ‘that plane is flying really low’ and in an instant the 2nd plane hit Tower 2,” said Quinones.
Frozen in time and overcome with a mixture of emotions and confusion, Quinones and the rest of the world watched as the towers collapsed.
Like many Americans, Quinones was in a state of shock and disbelief as he learned that other planes were hijacked, and one had hit the Pentagon.
On that day, Quinones lost more than just a sense of security, he also lost a family friend.
Vernon Cherry, a firefighter assigned to Ladder 118/Engine 205, was the dad of two of Quinones’ friends.
Cherry and his teammates ran fearlessly into the chaos and began clearing Marriott World Trade Center Hotel. According to accounts by survivors, they remembered seeing men with the number 118 on their helmets running up the stairs to help the panicked guests. They were never seen alive again.
Vernon Cherry had been planning to retire at the end of the year. The 49-year-old had worked as a firefighter for nearly 30 years and had made a name for himself during that time. Not only was he one of few black firefighters in New York in 2001, but he was also a talented singer.
It was the memory of Cherry that Quinones carried with him as he walked into an Army recruiting station in June of 2002. That memory has been with him through two deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and 19 years of selfless service to this country and the people who lost so much on Sept. 11.
As his career in the Army is coming to an end 20 years after 9/11, Quinones reflects on what it has meant to him.
“For me it’s bittersweet,” he said. “I am proud of my time being a service to this country and being a part of something bigger than myself.”