Column – Remembering 9/11

Published 7:24 pm Friday, September 9, 2022

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By Chris Quilpa

This Sunday marks the 21st anniversary of 9/11 — a horrible, historical event in modern U.S. and World History.

The unforgettable and memorable Sept. 11, 2001 was an unexpected terrorist attacks that befell on U.S. soil, specifically in that Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon in Arlington, (just outside Washington, D.C.,) and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The deadliest terrorist attacks in the United States of America, from the four hijacked planes by the Islamic group al-Qaida, have killed almost 3,000 people, young and old, innocent, freedom-loving people.

Where were you during that tense, harrowing hours when the hijacked planes, under the control of militant terrorists, were doing their suicidal attacks, wreaking havoc on buildings, properties, notwithstanding maiming and killing lives? What were you doing in those intense moments, that unfortunate day? What were your reactions or how did you feel when you heard about it, when the attacks were happening?

Did you pray, if you’re a man/woman of faith, or have time to pray that day, and the days after? Did you have a valid reason or reasons to be concerned about life, your life and the lives of others? Did you have a lot of questions, like why, how, about our safety and security, local and national, global in general?

I was working at “The First and Finest” Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. Working in the radiology department, taking charge of all our training records, both civilian and military, I was busy checking out individual training records and noting down who needed this and that update. I made sure that all of us have had current CPR and other in-service trainings needed/required for the JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.) If there were staff-personnel, civilian or military, that have had their CPR going to be expired or renewed, I set up CPR classes for them. I sent email letters, reminding them of what they’re missing in their training records. In short, I have had to make sure that our department was always timely and up-to-date with all the requirements set by JCAHO.

That Tuesday morning, my routine at the staff lounge was disrupted when retired Navy Chief Thomas (we call him Mr. T.) came in and, with that remote control in his hand, turned the TV on. By the way, the TV was mounted on a corner wall in the room. There it was…a plane hitting the twin towers! Then, another one ramming the building!

After one personnel after another came in, at times they rushed to the room in pairs, the room began to be full. We’re all in shock of what we’re seeing or witnessing on TV. The room was in complete silence and “O my God!” was all that I heard, afterward. One personnel changed the channel, from NBC to CNN. Then to another channel. For another perspective, I guess, of the ongoing news/event, that time. Sad and teary-eyed we were all. Quiet and reserved. Startled and puzzled. It was just like watching an ongoing shooting of a movie being made. But that was real! A real event and not acted out.

That day, I tried to get back to my work (our training records) but I couldn’t concentrate. For a few hours, I couldn’t stay focused because it was confusing and mindboggling to me what had happened. I believe, the rest of my co-workers were also perplexed.

But, eventually, we had to do what we had to do to get back in business of providing quality health care and services to our health care beneficiaries. Business as usual, as they say. Teamwork has to be upheld for mission accomplishment. That’s what it is in the military and, I believe, in the civilian sector as well.

So, what did we learn from 9/11? What impact did it do protect our freedom and democracy? Were there effective and efficient safety and security measures, policies, protocols implemented to safeguard and protect our country, our people?

And, along with the Jan. 6, 2021 United States Capitol insurrection in Washington, D.C., what have we learned so far about these attacks that endangered our safety, security, freedom and democracy as a nation of laws?

Have we been more vigilant and patriotic? Or, have we become more divided than united? Have we been safer and secured than before those two historic events that happened?

As everyone has almost been saying, Never Forget. We are different, yet we are one. Let there be love, peace, hope, charity, as we continue to pray for peace in/to the world.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at