An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Voices of 9/11 - Glenn Robertson

  • Published
  • By Glenn S. Robertson
  • 90th MIssile Wing Public Affairs

I had just finished an overnight shift of university dorm security, got home and finally fallen asleep at 7:30 a.m.

At about 10 to 9, just a little under an hour and a half after falling asleep, my phone starts ringing.

“Hello…” I answer groggily.

It was my girlfriend. She knew I worked nights.

“You need to get up, Glenn,” she said. “There’s something you need to see.”

“Not gonna happen,” I mumbled back. “Call back later.”

She did call back later. Fifteen minutes later, in fact. At 9:05 a.m. she yelled at me to get up and turn on the television. 

I started realizing that this was more serious than I initially thought. I asked her what channel I should turn it to while hitting the power button. I realized quickly that the channel didn’t matter.

It was Sept. 11, 2001. 

Like so many, the images of that day are seared into my memory. The tragedy, the heroism, the awful loss of life.

Like so many, I watched in horror as people were forced to make a decision between jumping off the tower or burning inside. People looking up at the tower only to have it come toppling down on them. 

Like so many, I saw what true heroism meant, borne of the fire, smoke and death. 

Heroism. That word meant something different to me that day.

I heard the stories of first responders who climbed thousands of stairs to rescue those trapped inside. So many of them would never make it out. 

Years later, I would watch a documentary about people’s experiences that day, and there was a fire captain who said that one of his guys said that they might not make it out alive. 

They all shook hands, said it was an honor working together, wished each other good luck and started climbing the stairs.

They knew they would likely die in service of those trapped in the Tower, and yet they still climbed.

There is no clearer display of heroism, in my opinion. The fire captain who told his story was the only one on his team who survived.

There is no day in our modern history that elicits the same universal emotional response among those who lived through it as 9/11; yet, there are people in uniform serving today who weren’t even alive when it happened.

When I talk to some of these young airmen, it seems so alien that 9/11 would not even be part of the consideration. It’s a totally foreign concept for many of them - purely something they read about in a history book. They didn’t see their fellow Americans killed in real time.

Yet, when i joined military service in 2005, it was a crucial consideration for myself and many others who joined with me. Virtually none who joined in the few years following could entirely devoid themselves of that September day. It might not have been the only reason, or even a major reason, but it was always a reason.

We’ve come a long way in those twenty years, and much has changed. Yet, it falls upon those who lived through it to remind those who come after us about the horror and the heroism of that day. We who saw those people plummeting to the ground. We who heard the words “let’s roll” after United 93 went down and Todd Beamer’s family told us about it. We who saw the towers tumble and the pentagon aflame. We who were forever scarred by what happened that day. 

We owe it to them and the ones who come after them to fill the ranks of our military to do everything in our - and their - power to ensure that we never see anything like that again. 

2,977 human beings were lost that day, with hundreds to thousands more dying between then and now as a result of injuries sustained and illness caused by the events.

10,000 more, at least, have been diagnosed with cancer thought to be caused by breathing in the toxic air at Ground Zero.

Countless cases of people suffering from PTSD. Survivors guilt. Depression. Drug use and alcoholism. 

Twenty years later, we are still counting the cost. There were bodies identified just this week. But we cannot forget. We cannot insult their memory. We can’t.

Fathers. Mothers. Daughters. Sons. Brothers and sisters. Friends. Spouses. 

We cannot forget.