Reflections of the 18th Anniversary of September 11, 2001
“I was a professor teaching future military leaders at West Point and an Active-Duty Major at the time when we were attacked. I was only 50+ miles away from the Trade Center Towers. Angry and shocked were the two immediate emotions, then came the questions of who did this, why, and what were we going to do about it. I knew at that moment I would be involved again in military operations/wartime efforts in the very near future.
The second and most significant thing I still remember today from that horrific day were the cadets that I was charged with educating, developing, and mentoring at that time into future Army Officers at West Point. Their immediate resolve and enthusiasm to selflessly serve our Nation, knowing that they were headed towards a future of military conflict, was humbling and inspiring. Two of my students had parents that were hurt in the attack at the Pentagon. We actually watched on a TV in the classroom as video footage showed the Pentagon attack’s aftermath. Allowing them to try and call their parents to no avail was extremely hard to rationalize what happened and manage their fear and emotions.
For all of us…it was life-changing and personal in so many ways.”
CHRIS TALCOTT, RET. ARMY, BOARD MEMBER
“September 11th was the first time I ever felt the gravity of freedom.
Now, I look back on September 11th and realize it is my generation’s “Where were you that day?” moment.”
HEATHER SHOLL, BOARD MEMBER & CO-FOUNDER
“I was the director of a large children’s ministry at the time and we had to come up with tools to equip parents in the days following to communicate with their children about hatred, why does God let bad things happen to good people, and support families who had a direct connection to someone affected by what happened.
What I remember about the day was my sister didn’t hear from her husband for hours after the Pentagon crash (he worked just up the street). That was unnerving.
My nephew (dad mentioned above) was 10 at the time and he chose to train for and become a first responder in the county where the Pentagon, Capitol Building, White House, Etc. are located. He is in a group specifically trained to manage trauma from acts of terrorism.
I’m not sure it “means” something other than knowing we are all vulnerable to attacks on our freedom. And I’m grateful nothing like that has happened since due to great people who serve to protect us.”
MYRA BRANDENBURG, VP OF OPERATIONS & RETAIL
“Michael’s unit was already deployed to Kuwait on a “regular rotation” – Family Readiness Group took on a whole new meaning and we jumped into action. Resilience of our family members is ever so important and Support for them cannot be overlooked. It was one thing to be a military spouse, but as a mom, it is now even more nerve-racking.
I think about everyone who has entered the service since then and have an even greater appreciation for ‘youngsters’ who stepped up and answered the call knowing our nation would be at war and is still at war. While Michael was in command of a basic training battalion and the Army raised the age limit for new recruits, we saw older adults joining the ranks – teachers, professional athletes, first responders – and gained further appreciation of the military’s newest members.
We’ve lost several personal friends and extended family members that day – and many since then, not just in combat but also from the wounds of war. We must continue to honor their service and sacrifice by not only remembering but continuing to live their legacy.”
CHERYL ENDRES, BOARD MEMBER
“September 11. I was a student at Vanderbilt University rushing to my women in history class, when a friend sent me an instant message to turn on the news. I shot back that I was late and didn’t have time. Then my phone rang. It was the same friend who said, “Sit down and turn on the news.” The horror that filled the screen seemed cinematic. Questions ran through my mind — what? who? how? why?
I ran to class, walked in the room and my fellow students were in tears. Needless to say, the lecture was cancelled for the day. While September 11 is an infamous day in our nation’s recent history and calls to mind unexpected tragedy, it also is a reminder of hope; of the fortitude of the American spirit; of the resilience of this great nation and how we come together as one in dire times of destruction, of need. In a current climate that is often polarizing and politicized, September 11 has shaped my generation and especially those who joined the Armed Forces in response to it to protect our freedom at home and abroad.”
SHELLY KIRKLAND, CEO
“9/11 calls for remembrance of all the lives lost on that day and as a consequence of the attacks. It calls for a celebration of resilience and strength and courage of the survivors and patriots in our nation.”
LEIGH ANN RANSLEM, BOARD PRESIDENT & CO-FOUNDER
“I was in 3rd grade at the time and our class was making our routine trip to the school’s library. In the library, they had the TV on with live coverage of the attacks. I later went to church with my family for a special mass to honor all the victims of September 11th. My dad had to take me out of church because I was crying so hard. If my patriotism didn’t run deep before that moment, it sure did now. I may not have served my country, but I serve those warriors now that joined because of that horrific day.
God Bless all the incredible lives we lost that day. God Bless Our Troops. And never, ever forget.”
LYDIA WALKER, COMMUNITY RELATIONS & BRAND MANAGER
“I can’t believe that tomorrow marks 18 years…..it only seems like yesterday that I was that Second Class Petty Officer standing at the gas chamber in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina running Hospital Corpsman through various drills (meaning that up until we got the news we were only training for “what if scenario’s”)! As we received the news about the towers being hit, our students and remaining staff were glued to the TVs and radios listening to the horrific events unfold….simultaneous we were trying to make contact with our students loved ones that were known to be in NY during that time of the day. As the days followed I personally couldn’t have been prouder that I had raised my right hand to fight for our great nation’s freedoms….and I was READY to FIGHT!!!! Never did I think 18 years ago that I would be a part of 18 years of war nor retire when that same fight is being fought…..our country has lost amazing men to this terror but I have no doubt that none of those men would change the principals upon which they fought and supported! I can only pray that God will continue to wrap his arms around our fellow men and women that continue to fight the fight and bring them home safely to their loved ones! God Bless America!”
TORRIE ROGERS, RET. NAVY, BOARD MEMBER
“Remembering the day is so vivid for me both in how it started and how it ended. The day started early for me and Hank Williams Jr we took the first flight from Nashville to Boston heading to Maine. He was taking me on a hunt for my birthday on the 14th. As we sat on an American Airlines flight in line to take off from Boston confusion ensued. They shut down the airport and we sat on the runway with no idea what was happening for the next 4 hours while our families learned that American flights leaving Boston had hit the towers. We had no comms as they had shut down all cell towers and therefore no contact with our families. Needless to say it was day no one will forget for countless unimaginable reasons.
It also brought about prolonged war for really the first time in my adult life. As friends went away and after the horror of 9/11 faded from people’s memories and many of their lives resumed normalcy in the land of milk and honey I made a conscience decision as a civilian I wouldn’t let that happen. It’s easy when we’re not the ones sacrificing for complacency and apathy to crepe in and define us. I’ve tried to this day both personally, as a family and as a company continue to do as the BC mantra teaches “when they come back we give back.”
JOHN BILLHEIMER, BOARD MEMBER
“I was a sophomore in high school taking a state mandated test and it wasn’t until the lunch break that I was able to know what was going on with the towers and the rest of the country. I remember standing in that classroom watching the tv in disbelief and after that the rest of the day felt like the world continued spin and I was left motionless. I am sure that I am like most American teenage boys and ready to go and fight to honor the men and women that were tragically taken from their loved ones because of the hatred of a group of people was so insurmountable that they took devastating measures to make their intentions known. So I continue on a path for the next 3 years until I could join and do just that. As that day gets further away the memories and emotions of that tragic day stay as clear as they were that day. I made a promise that day to always help the people that I can and I continue to honor that promise by living laced up with the Boot Campaign.”
RICKY RALEY, VETERAN AMBASSADOR
“Walking back a freshman class at Baylor University, I heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember returning to my dorm room; shocked, scared, unsure of what was really happening and watched as the second tower was hit. At 18 years old I was young and naive to the world’s evil. I sat on the phone in silence with my dad for extended periods of time – just to have him there even hundreds of miles away was comfort. It was a day that changed my outlook on freedom and patriotism – and everything that we as civilians can easily take for granted comes with a huge sacrifice. Men and Women daily raising their right hand to protect me, my family and this country – I will never forget the day that started the longest war in history, the lives that have been lost because of it and the families who have lost them. It is now my duty and honor to give back to those who have returned home.”
LINDSEY LOTT, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS
“I was in eighth grade and then I got a call from my mom to stay home because something happened in New York. I didn’t know what it was I didn’t know what it with me but I knew that I wanted to fight against people that would do that to my country. Now as I sit be on the battlefield I feel that my mission continues to help people to find their way home the same way Marcus Burleson helped me.”
ZACH BELL, VETERAN AMBASSADOR