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Remembering Sept. 12, 2001

  • Published
  • By Col. Christopher Coffelt
  • 90th Missile Wing commander
As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, it is important and appropriate that we remember and honor the victims of the terrorist attacks on our nation and their families and friends who were left attempting to deal with the loss of their loved ones. As one who endured the attack on the Pentagon that day, this 10th anniversary evokes some very strong memories and feelings. I share the same shock, anger and sense of loss every American likely feels when reflecting on the events of September 11th; a bit of lingering "survivor's guilt," and thought about of all those who have served, been wounded or made the ultimate sacrifice in response to those attacks, as well as the families whose constant support make those operations possible.

I also think a lot about September 12th. While most remember and could recall how they felt on Sept. 11, 2001, fewer likely could quickly recount their feelings on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001; but as a military professional, my thinking quickly turns to that morning as a guide for our future -- I think it is critically important we remember Sept. 12, 2001.
I remember getting up early that morning, placing my short sleeved blue Air Force shirt that smelled of smoke in the laundry basket, and donning my Battle Dress Uniform, and heading straight back into the Pentagon for work in spite of the looks of worry and confusion on my children's faces. My wife was equally concerned, but fully supported me as I headed out the door, knowing that our return to the still-burning Pentagon would be an important show of resolve our nation needed.

But, what I remember most about that day is how differently I felt about the future -- likely feelings shared by many of my fellow Americans. Where there was once a feeling of complete certainty about our daily security at home, there was uncertainty. Where there was once unquestioned confidence in the future prosperity of our nation, there were questions. Would today include more attacks? Is this the way it will be from here forward? Will our daily lives be subject to the same extremist violence many of our allies have to plan for and deal with at home every day? The terrorists failed to achieve their primary objective of creating fear which would cause us to alter our policies or behavior, but the attacks did leave many Americans feeling uncertain about the future.

Remembering the unacceptable uncertainty about the future that was on many Americans' minds the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, should motivate every one of us in uniform to do our best every day. Over the past 10 years, our committed efforts alongside those of our local, state and federal law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security agencies, and like-minded allies and partners around the world have done much to diminish the uncertainty. Many 90th Missile Wing deployers have contributed much in direct support of counter-terrorism operations worldwide, but our contributions to our citizens' daily certainty of their security and confidence in the future go well beyond these efforts.

For decades, we in the Mighty Ninety have provided a strike-ready nuclear force that deters those who would threaten us, assures our allies and friends, and provides unmatched combat capability and options directly to the president of the United States.
What we do, in a sense, builds tomorrows. Our vigilance and the constant combat readiness of our weapons and warriors ensure Americans will wake up tomorrow morning with the same sense of security, safety and positive outlook of their future they woke up with today. Our nation needs us and we simply must deliver our best every day to ensure no American ever again experiences the unacceptable uncertainty they did on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001.