Friday, September 9, 2011

REMEMBERING 9/11: Your Story, #5 | National Infantry Museum, Fort Benning/Columbus, Georgia

Today we continue our series of 9/11 recollections, submitted by readers and published in their own words. 
This time we're featuring two stories sent in by NIMSC volunteers who worked on Fort Benning 10 years ago, discussing life as a civilian employee of Fort Benning in the days that followed the attacks:
On 9/11 I was working as a contractor in the TRADOC Systems Manager - Soldier (TSM-Soldier) office at Fort Benning.  TSM-Soldier acts as the soldier advocate for all materiel fielded to soldiers in the Army.  When the plane hit the North Tower, someone in the office received a call and turned on a television.  I then saw the second plane hit the South Tower but immediately gathered my belongings to drive to Atlanta to then fly to Boston.  After I had been on I-185 about 30 minutes several people from the office called me and told me to return because no aircraft were flying.  I was going to fly to Boston, the origination of some of the hijacked flights, so I could visit the Army's Natick, MA, lab.  
On 12 September I dutifully went to work but decided to go a little early.  Riding south on I-185 I hit the line of cars being checked for entry just south of St. Mary's Road at 6 am.  Many people turned around and went elsewhere.  I decided that if the Military Police could take the time to inspect cars that I could take the time to stay in line.  I finally passed the check point inspection at 12:15 pm and had to stop for gas at the PX.  When I reached my office in Building 4 on post at about 12:45, my instructions were to go home because all non-essential personnel were told to stay away for three days.
Those were trying days for sure.

John M. House, PhD
Colonel (retired), US Army

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I was in my media center at Edward A. White Elementary School on Fort Benning, when one of the maintenance men came in and told me to turn on my TV.  I did, and soon after saw the second plane crash into the Tower.  Upon learning of what happened, our principal went to each classroom, called the teacher into the hall, and explained what had happened.  He told them to keep the TV off and let the parents break the news to their children at home.

Anticipating more security checks the next day, I rode my bike to work on the Riverwalk.  Nobody was checking the trail as it entered post, and it was so strange to see no cars on the usually very busy Fort Benning Blvd. from Custer Road up the hill onto Main Post.  Fortunately, some of our teachers were spouses who lived on post, so they gathered the students in the auditorium until at least one teacher for each grade-level arrived.  Since I had a master key, I was able to open up the building.  Because of the traffic jam at the check points, some teachers never made it to work that day.  Others arrived after noon.  Traffic was backed up on Benning Blvd. to Victory Drive, and some people trying to get to work and who had had too much coffee, had to head for the woods to answer nature's call.  By the next day, there were still delays, but things moved much smoother.

Owen Ditchfield

If you have a story to share, email jbeck@nationalinfantryfoundation.org. Over the coming weeks, stories will be posted every 1-2 days. If your submission is selected for publication, you will be notified immediately. The National Infantry Foundation retains the right to edit for clarity and content (grammar errors, offensive language, etc.), but will not alter the intent of the writer. These are your stories in your words.

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