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Remembering September 12th, 2001...

  • Published
  • By Col. Christopher Coffelt
  • 90th Missile Wing commander
As we commemorate the 11th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, it is important and appropriate that we remember and honor the victims of the terrorist attacks on our nation and their families/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 11th anniversary evokes some very strong memories and feelings. I share the same shock, anger, and sense of loss that every American likely feels when reflecting on the events of September 11th, a bit of lingering "survivor's guilt", and I think of all that have served, been wounded or made the ultimate sacrifice in response to those attacks, and the families whose constant support make those operations possible, but I also think a lot about September 12th, 2001. While most could easily recall how they felt on September 11th, 2001, likely fewer could quickly recount their feelings on the morning of September 12th, 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 that we also remember September 12th, 2001.

I remember getting up early that morning, placing my short sleeved blue AF shirt that smelled of smoke in the laundry basket, 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 as she, too, knew that our return to the still-burning Pentagon would be an important show of resolve that 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 that many of our Allies and partners have to plan for and deal with every day in their home countries? The terrorists failed to achieve their primary objective of creating fear which would cause us to bend to their will, 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 September 12th, 2001, should motivate every one of us on the national security team to do our best every day--especially those of us entrusted with the nation's most powerful combat force. Over the last 11 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. Our warriors have certainly contributed a great deal in this fight, but our wing's 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 that 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, is build tomorrows. Our vigilance and the constant combat readiness of our weapons and warriors ensure that Americans will wake up tomorrow morning with the same sense of security, safety, and positive outlook of their future that 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 September 12th, 2001. I am extremely proud of each and every one of you and know that you are doing your best every day to uphold this great responsibility. Thanks and please keep up the great work.