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Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?

Col Franks holding US flag

Col. DeAnna Franks, commandant of the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center, deployed five times over the span of three years shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo courtesy Col. DeAnna Franks)

Col Franks holding US flag

Col. DeAnna Franks, commandant of the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center, deployed five times over the span of three years shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo courtesy Col. DeAnna Franks)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. --

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Airmen from the 139th Airlift Wing share their stories of where they were on Sept. 11, 2001.

Col. DeAnna Franks (U.S. Air Force Reserve), Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center

At the time I was a brand new lieutenant at the 50th Airlift Squadron in Little Rock, Arkansas. That summer I had just finished up my initial qualification and was a new co-pilot on the C-130s. I woke up that morning and turned on the TV just a few minutes after 8 o’clock central which would have been a few minutes after the first plane had hit New York City. I watched in disbelief seeing the news right in front of me after only being up a few minutes. I watched for a little while and shortly thereafter the second plane hit. That was followed very quickly by the Pentagon. Now the Pentagon attack was actually the one that was the major trigger for myself because at the time my dad, who had retired from the Air Force, was working for a contractor there. So when that plane was aimed at and hit the Pentagon my first thought was “where's my dad?!” That resulted in a scary, quick call that I made to my mom and fortunately my dad was on a work trip away from the Pentagon in a different state. Even though his office wasn't directly on the ring that was hit, it still affected me very closely.

As the morning continued, my next thought as a young co-pilot was, “I need to get to the office!” I was scheduled to work the duty desk that day, so I called the squadron and of course everything was just chaotic in the background. I said “I’m calling to see if you need me to come into work right now because I know I'm supposed to be there at noon.” And all I remember hearing the scheduler at the time say is “Stay right where you're at, at your house, because more than likely I'm going to call you in about an hour to pack your bags to be on an alpha crew, to sit alpha alert here at billeting at Little Rock, in case we need to take a plane within an hour's notice to go wherever.” And I said, Ok!” I thought to myself, “Ok, don't go anywhere. I better start packing my bag to get ready to sit alpha alert.” Sure enough within 45 minutes, I got the call, “I need you to show up at billeting in an hour, here is your crew. You'll get checked in and then you'll get additional instructions from there.” And as a young co-pilot I don't know if I even understood what alpha alert versus bravo alert was. All I knew was that if our crew got called, we had to be wheels-up within an hour. As a brand new lieutenant, I was so scared and excited too, that if I was called, I was going to be ready. So for about the next 16 hours I didn't even take my uniform off. I didn't take my boots off. I sat in the chair and watched the news. As it turns out, my crew is not one that got alerted but for that first 16 hours I didn't even want to untie my boots because I wanted to be ready. I wanted to be a good co-pilot. I wanted to make sure I had my stuff together, that I had my check list ready. After we got passed about 16 hours, I finally started to take my boots off.

For the next three years I did a total of five deployments to the Middle East that supported Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
 

Senior Master Sgt. Ed Sollars, 139th Logistic Readiness Squadron

I was working in the fuels shop at the time and I know it was a Tuesday because I was scheduled to go to Arizona with the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center the very next day. I was actually getting all my equipment together for the trip because we had to gather liquid oxygen samples in Arizona. I remember Jeff Kirk walking into the shop and telling us to turn the news on because a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We turned on the TV in our office and me, him, and now Chief Master Sgt. Kris Neros were looking at the TV trying to determine what size plane went through the building. We thought maybe it was a Cessna aircraft, but I remember thinking, “It looks bigger than a Cessna.” We were basically analysing the first impact. Of course the news was airing live, and then boom, the second plane hit the other tower. We were in absolute awe of what we witnessed. At that point we knew this wasn't an accident. The TV stayed on the whole day as we learned about the other two planes that were hijacked.

Somebody attacked our country and to be part of the military during that time frame gave me a great sense of pride.

 

Chief Master Sgt. Mickey Parkhurst, 139th Air Terminal Function Flight

I was at home with my daughter getting ready to take her to school. I took her to school and dropped her off. I remember hearing it on the radio at first and when I got home I turned on the television and began watching the coverage basically the rest of that morning. I knew that there had been a history of aircraft hitting tall buildings before; the Empire State Building was struck by a military airplane at one time, and it didn’t bring that building down, and that was a total accident related to low visibility. But 9/11 was no accident. After hearing about the Pentagon, it was clear that these were absolutely deliberate hits.

Some of my thoughts were about uncertainty, not knowing what else could happen. But also what would be taking place in the very near future for the military in general.

Later in the day I went back to my daughter's school and talked to her teacher. I said, “Next time you take the kids out to recess, point out to them that there are no jet streams in the sky. It will be the only time they ever see it like that.” Most days you can look up and count 10 or 15 jet streams at one time because a lot of planes cross that area, but I remember looking up and seeing nothing.