Graduating Army Basic Training
On 9/11 we were preparing for final inspection at Fort Jackson South Carolina where we would be graduating Basic Training the next day. Our Drill Sergeant allowed us to listen to the radio for the first half of the day, but it did not register to me the gravity of what had happened. I also had virtually no connection to the outside world.
After graduation, a small handful of us who were unable to travel by bus to advanced training remained in the barracks for nearly two weeks due to the grounding of flights. We could go to the PX on base and had limited access to the the rest of the base, but never left base. I never bought a newspaper or listened to the radio. I was completely isolated to the trepidation that had fallen on the rest of the country.
When I eventually did leave for advanced training, the airports and planes we rode on were almost completely empty, but the gravity of what had transpired still did not dawn on me. When we arrived at advanced training, I spent the next six months immersed in training. There was some conversation about what had transpired, but none of it was real to me. I was largely isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world due to both choice, ignorance and the controlled nature of the military training environment. In fact, it wasn't until long after I left (chaptered out of) the Army at the end of 2003 that I eventually began to pick up on the shared sentiment surrounding 9/11 in the country.
When others talk about where they were and what they were doing, it is obvious that it was something the entire country went through together and it formed a common bond among Americans. I love hearing about and reading the stories like the ones on this site, but for me the memory feels strange, almost like a piece of missing time...almost.
A million thoughts raced through my head. And then I witnessed the most horrific thing I've ever witnessed in my 36 years of life. A TV had been set up in the break room, and we all watched in horror as first one, then both Towers fell. I can't describe the sadness, the feeling was too intense to justify in words.
Jack (story excerpt)