On Tuesday, Sept.11, 2001, Americans all over the country began their day; getting ready for work, riding a bus to school and so forth. This day seemed just as normal as the last.
At 8:45 a.m. EST, this day instantly became abnormal when an American Airlines Boeing 767, the first plane in a series of attacks, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
That morning, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Joshua Lesoken, from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) intelligence department, was waiting for a recruiter to drive him to a Military Entry Processing Station (MEPS) to enlist in the Navy.
“I was excited that morning because I was leaving for MEPS and eventually boot camp. My mother was watching television, and I remember sitting there eating my breakfast, when all of a sudden her program was interrupted by breaking news,” said Lesoken.
“As we were watching the news, that’s when the second plane hit and we were in shock. A few moments later the recruiter called and said he wasn’t coming but did ask if I still wanted to join.”
After Lesoken finished his phone call, he had moments of doubt about joining the Navy.
“I looked at my mom and my dad, and after we talked, I wanted to go more than ever. I planned on joining anyway but now there was more purpose behind it.”
As the World Trade Center’s 110-story north tower raged in fire and countless Americans were stranded, injured or dead, United Airlines Flight 175 turned sharply and struck the south tower near the 60th floor only 18 minutes after the first plane crashed.
Chief Aviation Ordananceman Jason Ortiz, assigned to Ford’s weapons department, lived in Brooklyn and was at school in upper Manhattan. He recalled the sight from his school cafeteria as utter chaos.
“Through those doors, all you could see was people walking and running away from where the World Trade Center was,” said Ortiz. “There were no trains and no mass transit so, people were crossing the Queensboro Bridge, almost like a marathon, but pure havoc.”
2,763 people including firefighters, paramedics, police officers, port authority police and the office workers in and around the twin towers lost their lives.
Senior Chief Machinists Mate (Nuclear) Elizabeth Webster, from Holland, Pennsylvania, assigned to Ford’s reactor department, explained how the attacks in New York City directly affected her decision to join the Navy.
“I had friends that lost parents, brothers, sisters and other family members when the twin towers collapsed. I was 22 at the time and called my uncle, who was serving in the Army, and asked him for advice on enlisting,” said Webster. “I had this calling and there is still that sense of that need to serve and patriotic duty. That was the foundation for my Navy career, it reminds me of why I am here.”
For the hour between 8:45 a.m. EST and 9:45 a.m. EST, most Americans were shocked by what they witnessed and had thoughts about the current and future state of our country.
The attacks continued, at 9:45 a.m. EST when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the west side of the Pentagon, killing 125 military and civilian personnel and all 64 people onboard.
The last of four planes, United Flight 93, was hijacked after a delayed take off from Newark Liberty International Airport. The passengers onboard were aware of what happened in New York City and used cell phones and airplane phones to reach loved ones.
The Tom Burnett Family Foundation website has transcripts of Thomas Burnett’s last phone call to his wife, he said, “We can’t wait for the authorities. It’s up to us. Don’t worry, we’re going to do something. I love you.”
While a few brave passengers fought the hijackers, their efforts were unsuccessful and the plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. EST.
Later that evening, President George W. Bush addressed the nation and said, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
No matter how a person remembered the events that transpired throughout that seemingly normal morning, or reflect on the first time they tried to understand the events because they were too young to remember, the Sept. 11th terror attacks impacted all of our lives and no American has forgotten.
For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78.