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10 years later: What makes you remember 9-11?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
Ten years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, I am like many Americans who were affected by the attacks on America. However, when I look back at the memory of that day, one word comes to mind -- spaghetti.

So why spaghetti? It's really about the overall story of that day and how Americans responded and have grown stronger since then. Spaghetti plays a role in this for me.

On Sept. 11, I was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. It's a base in the Upper Midwest of the U.S., and was well away from where the terror attacks took place in the East. Despite the distance from the attacks, our base was no less busy in its response.

When the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 7:46 a.m. Central Standard Time, I was in my office having been at work a short time. We had the news on, and minutes after the plane hit, everyone in my office was watching the events unfold.

Elsewhere on base at the same, leaders of the then-319th Air Refueling Wing were making decisions to respond to the first plane hitting the North Tower when the second plane hit at 8:02 a.m. I remember it distinctly because the channel we were watching had a stationary coverage of the towers. I remember telling my office mates seconds before, "Look...there's another's going toward the other tower....."

And then it hit! I was speechless, shocked and like many others in uniform, I knew we were now at war. From that point on, and after the Pentagon attack and the response by of the heroes of Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, my day grew to a work day that covered the next 24 hours.

But what about the spaghetti? Late in the evening on Sept. 11, 2001, the people in my building were on a general lock-down because the base was in its highest threat condition that I had ever seen. Because we were restricted in movement, many of the people working there did not get something to eat through the entire day. But, without notice, my wife Bobbi showed up at the front door of the building with enough spaghetti to feed the masses. After clearing her through the interior checkpoints, we brought the food up to my office and thus fed nearly 25 people.

The gesture was thanked by all who could smell the spaghetti wafting through the hallways and partook of the feast. To me, it spoke volumes about how people stepped up that day. My wife, as my lifetime wingman, knew some people needed some help and she provided it without asking - she was just one of millions of Americans who did the same thing.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Americans became one. We became a country who pulled together and helped each other become stronger. We knew then, as we still do today, that taking care of all those who needed the support, love and togetherness to become stronger that we all would be better off.

In the years that followed 9-11, I've deployed overseas several times to support operations that resulted from our nation's response to the terrorist attacks. In all the places I've been, there signs that the rest of America's fighting force remembers.

For example, at many deployed bases, there are 9-11 memorials that are cared for meticulously every day. There are gates and bases named after victims of the attacks and the American flag is proudly flown over all of them.

Additionally, all the deployed bases I've been to in Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and throughout Southwest Asia have dining facilities that serve spaghetti every day. It's funny, too, because in those dining facilities I ate a lot of spaghetti. At the time I wasn't sure why. Now I think I do.

When you think about the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, I ask that you remember first the victims of the attacks and the sacrifices they and their families have made. Secondly, remember all of the military members, police officers and firefighters, their families and others who have worked tirelessly to ensure our safety, our freedom and our way of life are protected and preserved every day.

And lastly, I ask you keep those reminders to remember that day and how people stood up, helped each other and showed us how great America is. For me, that reminder is spaghetti because it feeds my memory of the goodness of the people I serve with in the military, the people of my hometown, and the people of America.

(Editor's note: This is the second in a series of three stories recognizing the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.)