Diana Ogilvie: ‘Facing the horror directly gave us a common purpose’

A view from the executive offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., shows the White House in the foreground and a cloud of smoke billowing from the Pentagon after it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

I awoke to a day like any other, save for the fact that it was my birthday. I left for work a little later than normal. In the car, I nonchalantly tuned the radio to the station on which I depend to navigate my way through the notorious traffic of Washington, D.C. As I approached the city, the news flash of the crash at the first of the twin towers hit the airwaves. I immediately felt a sense of dread and thought it was a terrorist act even while the announcer called it a freak accident.

Subdued and anxious, I hurried to my military duty station in Washington and arrived shortly after the second strike. All entrances and exits to the base were sealed for security purposes soon after. My co-workers and I could see smoke billowing in the distance from the direction of the U.S. Capitol building, and we heard reports of another incoming plane — but communication lines were clogged and we weren’t able to send or receive calls.

Not long after, our commanding officer addressed the troops. He said that life as we had known it had been forever changed. Our nation would never be able to go back to the innocent times we had enjoyed before this day. Listening to him was a surreal experience, but facing the horror directly gave us a common purpose.

Eventually, the base was opened and personnel were allowed to go home. Our family trickled home, changed people with no interest in celebrating birthdays, only shock at the events of the day. Seeking comfort that dark night, I walked outside and looked up into the eerily still and silent sky.

- Diana Ogilvie is  a musician for the US Navy band based in Washington, D.C.


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