Remembering September 11, 2001
September 11, 2021 – Granite, MD — Twenty years ago today, nineteen hijackers seized four commercial aircraft determined to bestow mass destruction in the United States. Two of the four aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, while the last into a Pennsylvania field after heroic passengers foiled the terrorists aboard. Consequently, 2,997 innocent lives were lost, and the course of history and the lives of many were considerably changed on this day.
As stated by President George W. Bush during a speech in 2008, “One of the worst days in America’s history some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of /11.”
The following words reflects the personal experience as shared by CAP Lt Col George Ryan (Maryland Wing Airman, United States Secret Service Agent (retired), and United States Air Force Colonel (retired)):
“Recollections of 9/11/2001″ by Lt Col George Ryan (Civil Air Patrol Maryland Wing)
On 11 September 2001, I was assigned to the Vice Presidential Protective Detail (VPD) of the United States Secret Service. On that sunny Tuesday, my assignment was an administrative duty day, in which I would complete my monthly weapons qualification, complete administrative paperwork, and perform physical fitness training. I was at Tower, the command post, located on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory, where the Vice President’s Residence is located. Several other special agents had the same assignment I did that day. As well, the normal complement of Uniformed Division officers and other personnel were at the command post.
Our televisions were tuned to a combination of ESPN and several news channels, for background noise and general interest. When we heard that the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, all eyes and ears went to the news channels, and a selection of news channels were on the TVs. We were aware that decades ago, an Air Force plane had crashed into the Empire State Building, so while we were concerned, we were aware of the possibility of it being an accident. We had additional concern, no matter what the cause, because the New York Field Office of the Secret Service was located at the World Trade Center.
To this day I vividly recall watching the coverage, and seeing the second plane swoop into the picture from the lower right of the screen and crash into the WTC Tower. At that point, we all instantly knew this was an orchestrated attack rather than an accident. Our overriding concern at that moment was for our protectee, who was in his office at the White House, and for our comrades and friends on the detail, providing the protective shift for the day for the Vice President.
Each of us was already armed with our duty sidearm. We opened our armory, and all drew an MP5 submachine gun and extra ammunition, and donned our radios. We then went to the vehicle storage area, driving these additional vehicles to the White House to support our colleagues and the Vice President, should evacuation assistance become necessary.
By the time we arrived at the White House, the 3rd plane had crashed into the Pentagon. We stationed ourselves within the fenced area of the White House, on West Executive Avenue, between the West Wing and the Old Executive Office building. A report came over our radios that a fourth plane was on a track to the White House. As we watched people running out of the White House as part of the evacuation, we looked at each other in silent acknowledgement that this could be our last stand together. EVERY Secret Service member, officer and agent, stayed at their posts to support each other and protect our government, supporting and defending the Constitution as we had sworn to many years ago. My thoughts, and I’m sure our collective thoughts, were for our duty, and for our colleagues and friends, both those at the White House and in New York.
I will always remember that we all knew we could count on each other when tested as we were that day. I will also always remember the passengers who battled with the hijackers on that plane which crashed in Shanksville, PA on 11 September. They had no sworn duty, but they saw what needed to be done, and did it. From a selfish perspective, I am convinced they saved my life that day. Those of us in this profession and this agency either already have or develop a certain mental toughness. I was at the Pentagon shortly after the attacks, and have been to the memorial there many times since. I have been to Ground Zero in New York often, and watched the growth of the memorial there over the years. But to this day, almost 20 years after the attacks, I have yet to work up the courage to journey to Shanksville and pay my respects to those brave people who knowingly and willingly sacrificed themselves to save others, including me. “Victims” is hardly an appropriate term to describe them. They were the first to actively defend against those who attacked us on that day. I cannot put into words my appreciation of and admiration for them. Nor can I explain my hesitation in visiting that hallowed location. But in my mind, they are true heroes of that day. I can only hope that I would have acted as admirably were I on that plane.
By happenstance, as part of my assignment at that time to the training section of VPD, I had spent time recently at Camp David, learning the ins and outs of the facility to develop and refine protective practices at the installation. Once events had settled down some in DC, I was sent home to pack a bag and head up to Camp David as the VPD Lead Advance agent, should the decision be made to use Camp David as a secure, undisclosed location to which we could relocate the Vice President. Sped up to Camp David in my POV, with a borrowed bubble light on the roof. I was fairly familiar with the site, but very quickly learned all the ins and outs of that storied location as well.
11 September 2001 was a dark day for our country. But on that day we learned of the extraordinary heroism of our comrades on United Flight 93. I witnessed firsthand the dedication and commitment and bravery of my colleagues in the US Secret Service on the grounds of the White House. On those 18 acres, I never felt prouder to be an American and to serve my country.
George W. Ryan, Jr.
ATSAIC (ret), USSS, A03842
Colonel, USAF (ret)
CAP Lt Col
Civil Air Patrol Maryland Wing honors all the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. We Will Never Forget.
More than 1,200 members serve in Civil Air Patrol’s Maryland Wing. Last year, wing members flew 13 actual search and rescue missions. Overall, the Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the State of Maryland, flying 2,245 hours in all mission categories, and was credited with four finds. Volunteers contributed services estimated at $4.6 million. For information, contact the Maryland Wing at mdwg.cap.gov or follow the wing on Facebook.
Civil Air Patrol is the longtime auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a valued member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine aircraft and 1,994 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS). It performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 82 lives annually. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Operating as a nonprofit organization, CAP also plays a leading role in STEM/aerospace education, and its members serve as mentors to about 25,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs.
1st Lt Jeffrey Robertson, MDWG Public Affairs (email: email@example.com)