Where were you on 9/11? More stories from PoliceOne members
Officers from around the nation share their stories about that tragic day
Editor’s Note:Editor's Note: September 11, 2001 was the deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history — 72 police officers lost their lives that terrible day. The sadness and the anger remain raw. Last year, we asked PoliceOne Members to share their stories of what they were doing, thinking and feeling on 9/11/2001. Many officers from around the nation submitted their thoughts and posted comments to the article. This year, we present a few more stories that members wanted to share, including a round-up of comments from last year's article. Post a comment below to add to the discussion.
I just got off a midnight shift and was sleeping when I heard my wife yell out. I immediately jumped up and ran down stairs; she was on the phone with my best friend’s wife (an NYPD Insp.) The girls were just chatting when it came on the news about the first plane. The scream came after they both watched the 2nd plane hit. Both 20 + year veteran cops’ wives knew it was going to be a bad day, and that it was the worst for a city and a nation. I had friends of the 37 PAPD cops as well as the 343 FDNY that didn't make it out. Another good friend as a Senior DEA agent watched the jet hit the Pentagon, The American Airlines jet passed his window at the Federal building in DC. The skyline will never be the same; two friends will always be missing. "Greater love had no man than lay down his life for a friend.” Those of us in LE know they are not done yet, they accomplished what they started in 1993 with the WTC. Another anniversary has come and gone for most, but the victims and their families will never forget what happened to their loved ones. More service funerals that I ever thought I would ever attend. I hope the people of our country during the next Presidential election elect the right person. Because it will only get worse as time goes by. Stay vigilant Brothers!
— Sgt. J. Scordato, Hillsdale Police Department
I was in the Pentagon, working my normal shift as the Operations NCO for a missile warning component of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I had been gone TDY for the past six months, and had been asked to extend that, but a lot of "my people" were bitching about the person who had taken the job in my absence. So on the 10th, I returned to my job in the Pentagon. I'd kissed my wife at 7:30 and sent her off to her job working in the Pentagon too. We monitor CNN, so we got the news of the first plane hit over the phone and by TV at the same time. I was explaining to a kid who worked for me that there was NO way a plane would hit like that on accident when they showed the second plane hit. After that, I was on the phone with NORAD, at the other end of the line was an old friend who happened to work there. So I was probably the first to notify NORAD when we got hit. The rest of the day was a blur, making sure my people got out okay, making sure the equipment was up, trying to contact my wife, trying to find a way to get people back into my work center after we were ordered to evacuate, contacting my family, helping the civilians who work in the building get out, trying to find a way home as the parking lots were sealed off.
— Deputy G. Redman, Polk County Sheriff's Office
I got up to work a rare day shift as a Sergeant in a very small village police department in Southern Illinois. I turned on the TV to see the first tower was already struck and thought an air mishap had occurred. When the second tower was struck, I knew. I called my mother and we both agreed that it was a good thing that my father wasn't around to see this. My father was a WWII veteran of the Philippines. When I got into work, I checked in at the grade school and stayed tuned to the radio and TV. We didn't know what to tell the kids. Parents were picking them up from school; there were lines at the gas station up to six blocks long. Our one gas station did not raise their prices, but all the neighboring towns did. The manager refused to do that and she saved enough gas so that we, the fire department and her employees could get fueled up at the end of the night. We didn't know if there would be any refills or exactly what to expect in the following days. I think that the most remarkable thing I experienced that day was witnessing a community, state and country come together. I remember my parents talking about how the country was during WWII. It is sad that it took an event so tragic to bring everyone together as Americans.
— Officer W. Bromley, Carlyle Police Department
I was still a postal inspector at the time and had not yet left for work. I watched the second tower hit and went into work ASAP. Our division spent that day assembling equipment and making emergency assignments just in case. I was just numb. I kept thinking this is our generation's Pearl Harbor. The days that followed were filled with responses to suspected anthrax mailings, 24/7. Each of us averaged four responses a day. We were also given leads to pursue in trying to locate subjects for the Terrorism Task Force, and security surveys of postal and government installations. My first postal inspection assignment was New York. I commuted using the PATH Tubes under the WTC and worked at the Church Street Station Post Office, across the street from the WTC. I saw photos of my old office there and was surprised at how well the building took the blast damage.
— Deputy P. Donnelly, Tarrant County Constable
My family and I were travelling on I-4 in Orlando on route to the Universal Islands of Adventure Fun Park, the first day of our vacation from Scotland, U.K. The guy on the radio said that a small plane had struck one of the towers. My wife and I were speaking about it and the DJ played another song. I can remember the music suddenly stopping and the guy came back on and saying that a second plane had struck and that the reports were that it was an airliner. My wife works E.R in our local hospital and we both knew that this was an attack. We looked at each other as you do, and without speaking knew we had to keep it from the kids. We got to the park and it was eerily quiet, busy with people but subdued, we got in and I remember constantly scanning the sky for commercial flights. At lunch we went into a restaurant with a TV and the full horror struck us. I walked up to the serving hatch and heard the supervisor say that I was the last one and that they were closing the park. I won’t tell you how the park was evacuated but I must say that it was done in a professional and calm manner. The folks there knew their drills. We left the park and joined the I-4 lines heading back to the resorts. My 8-year-old son asked, "Are we at war?” I knew that the world had changed but what do you say to a kid?
— Sgt. C. Petterson, Strathclyde Police Department
I was in "line supervision" training at the local academy, preparing to be promoted to Sgt later in the month. One of the advisors for the academy came into the classroom, and told us to turn on the TV. We watched as the second plane hit, then the reports of the Pentagon getting hit. Class was cancelled, and most of us were called into work. About a week later I was part of a local task force that drove straight through from Miami to New York. We did two weeks at what various checkpoints, relieving some of the NYPD guys that had not had anytime off - we were assigned to the 6th precinct - who had lost a couple officers from their squad. I was promoted to Sgt. while I was deployed, and the NYPD guys made it a real event. I am glad that I was able to help in some small way for the officers that had already been through so much. I am also glad to have been able to see for myself the devastation so I can pass it along to other officers and my children. It is absolutely one of the things I will never forget.
— Sgt. J. Burns, Aventura Police Department
On September 11, 2001, my son and I were in New York State, near Syracuse, gathering the rest of my mother's belongings who had passed away earlier in the year. We had driven from California to New York State. When we woke up that morning, watching "Good Morning America" we began hearing the reports. It was a sad day for all Americans. Here we were only about 300 miles from America's worst tragedy. I told my son, who was then just 10 years old, to remember this day. Fortunately we had driven, and not flown. All airports were closed. The year 2001 was a sad year for me personally but for a Nation as well. The drive back to California was quite impressive. We saw people in almost every State performing various acts of Patriotism. I have always been patriotic and paroud to be an American. During this drive, it was good to see others being openly patriotic. When I arrived back in California, the CHP was on 12-hour days with days off cancelled. The effects of 9-11 extended across the nation. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!
Just finished handling an accident and was heading to Troop K HQ when I heard on radio that a "small commuter plane" hit the Tower. As I got to Troop HQ, a second plane just hit and the bosses grabbed me and my buddy who was ex-NYPD officer to escort an 18-wheeler full of medical supplies down to Ground Zero. Along the way we picked up couple of NYFD and NYPD officers who were on pass and heading in. As soon as we hit Westside Hwy, the smoke trail was unbelievable. It was around 1pm when we got to staging area and saw the devastation. The sun was shinning and all I good think of was my fellow brothers in law enforcement that were at the time trapped or missing. I prayed really hard.
— Trooper R. Mattson, N.Y. State Police
I was at home, I had just got off a midnight shift and was winding down. My father-in-law was visiting and came running upstairs (he's was in his late 50's, he doesn't run). He looked concerned. (This guy was wounded by the VC twice on the Mekong...nothing bothers him). He said to turn the TV on, adding that something just hit the World Trade Center. We saw the flames and had just heard that it was a plane that had hit it. We both were thinking terrorism. We agreed on that just before the second plane hit. Those "MF'rs" we both said. It was unreal. A few minutes later, the phone rang; it was my Lt., telling me that we were 'on alert'. I had been a cop for some time, and had never been 'on alert'. It brought it home that this was here, in our country, on our soil, in our face. Nothing has changed since that day; we are still under constant threat, in a different world, than existed on 9/10/01. What has changed is the sheep we are charged to protect. They have, by and large, gone back to their typical thought patterns as they always do. We do not have that luxury, nor shall we, ever.
— Sgt. S. Hoydic, South Lyon Police Department
I was in my freshman year of college and was planning on being a doctor. Seven years later, I am a military police officer. I remember that morning I was asleep (Was in Los Angeles) and was awaken by my room mates saying that a plane had hit the tower. I kept saying, "My dad just retired from the AF and I know from being around it all my life that that sort of thing does not happen!" The reality did not kick in for a bit, but once I saw that second plane hit...I knew there was something wrong. I was glued to the television all that day and kept trying to call family and friends to no avail. That day changed my whole outlook on life. I knew I had to do something with my life that would help prevent this sort of thing from happening again. I just hope that one day I can look back on my life and be able to say to those who have given so much, "I have taken up the torch and have carried it proudly and boldly so that your sacrifice will NEVER be forgotten!"
I was not even in law enforcement yet, I was in my senior year of high school and a volunteer firefighter. We watched in horror as it played out on the news. Since every class had a TV, we watched CNN before classes started. When my pager tripped I found another volley and we rushed as fast as we could to the station. Never before have people moved so quickly to get out of the way of blue strobe lights. Disaster alert was in effect. Later, when they got volunteers together to take a truck up, I was turned down since I was a 'junior.' Instead, we went into Philly on standby - in case it happened again. A very long day.
— Officer M. McMullen, PECF Police Department
I was at the Immigration & Naturalization Service's Washington District's Investigations Office where I was charge of the Investigations Branch located in Alexandria, VA. Our intelligence research specialist came running into my office and said to come into the conference room to see the TV. There was the first tower burning and a short time later we watched in horror as the second tower was hit. We knew that we were under attack. I had been in the World Trade Center numerous times while I was growing up in Long Island. We were watching events unfold as the news of the Pentagon being hit was released. A short time later we heard what was believed to be a large explosion and felt the windows blow. It was fighters going super sonic. Our office was only about 5 miles away from the Pentagon, we assisted the Arlington County authorities at the site. I will never forget the sight of the smoking Pentagon. These events triggered an enormous and almost immediate law enforcement response. We went to a 24 hour, seven day a week schedule. INS was the only agency with immigration authority and we were staffed with about 28 agents. The 500 plus FBI Washington Field Office agents ran us ragged for several months. There were many persons of interest in the area and some of them had acquired Virginia Driver's licenses by fraud INS did our best with what resources we had available. ICE is better prepared, equipped, and staffed. WE can never forget and we must remain vigilant!
— B. Joyce, DHS-ICE
On the morning of Sept. 11th, I was on duty as a criminal investigator for the PA State Police, stationed at Ebensburg, a substation some 40 miles north of Shanksville. A patrol member informed me of a plane crashing into the first tower, so several of us turned on the television. As we watched, we were informed of another plane crashing into the second tower. When I saw that, I remarked: That ****** Bin Laden. We then heard the news of the crash at the Pentagon. As we continued to watch things transpire, I had tears in my eyes, knowing that thousands of people and first responders had to be trapped inside. Then I saw the towers collapse, sure in my mind that we lost a lot of lives, including firefighters and law enforcement brothers. I felt a feeling inside that I had never felt before.
We were notified of a report of a low flying plane in the area, and shortly after received an update of a plane crashing near Shanksville. We received orders to proceed to the site. After changing into my uniform, I accompanied ten or so troopers to the site, where we formed a perimeter, keeping people fron entering the crash site and taking pieces of the plane which were scattered about. For the next four days, I continued with this duty working 12 hour shifts at various checkpoints. This was a very coordinated effort, down to the local fire company making regular stops with food and water. Flags were flown throughout the area. Upon my return to station on Friday, a male subject called in reporting overhearing a pair of men of middle eastern descent talking about driving an explosive laden vehicle into a tunnel on the PA turnpike and detonating the explosives. Immediately, the turnpike was notified and posted troopers at all the tunnels. I was assigned to interview the man. After locating and interviewing the subject, I knew that he was simply attempting to gain attention, but never thought of the consequences. After a lengthy interrogation, he finally admitted that he fabricated the story. Not only did his actions result in being arrested, he was also assessed a hefty bill for troopers' wages for protecting the tunnels.
I retired from PSP last year after over 25 years service. I have since been appointed as Police Chief in Portage PA. On my desk at home, I have my campaign hat and a Flight 93 hat displayed, along with my Flight 93 service ribbon, constantly reminding me of that dreadful day. I am also reminded of how our country pulled together, and how I looked around to see everyone crying when the national anthem was played during football games. Sept. 11th will stick in my mind forever.
— Chief Edward Miller, Portage Boro Police Department
Do you want to share your own 9/11 story? Post a comment below.