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9/11 Stories

9/11 and TSA

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Oath of Office

Lisa Wilkins, San Diego International Airport (SAN)

On September 11, 2001, I lost my aunt, uncle, and cousin. So I immediately joined TSA and graduated with the second class at San Diego International Airport (SAN). I took my Oath of Office with the belief that an event like this will never happen again on my watch to my family, friends, neighbors, or fellow human beings. I am very proud of TSA and believe in the TSA mission.

August 7, 2013, was the second monumental day in my life. With the support of my FSD and DFSD, not only did I see my daughter take her Oath of Office to her country and TSA, but I administered and took the Oath of Office again with her. I am so proud to have had that opportunity to present and place the TSA shield with the DHS crest on my daughter's TSA uniform.

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In a New York Minute

Rexann Duncan, Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC)

I was a Flight Attendant for Northwest Airlines based & living in Kew Gardens, New York. Better known as Crew Gardens (per airline crew members.) I had just flown in from Japan the night before and oddly enough I said to my roommate, “I feel really out of touch with the world, I think I’ll get up early and watch the news,” and I did. I got up, made coffee and thought oh yeah, the news. So I sat down on the couch, cozied up and turned on the TV. Not more than 5 minutes into it, the news anchor exclaimed, “What was that?” A plane had zipped across the screen. She turned her head back and forth looking frantic as their background screen was a live shot of New York City and the World Trade Center. I watched this whole mess unfold right before my eyes - just like millions of others. Another plane zipped across the screen. As things progressed I ran outside and down to the end of Metropolitan Avenue to see if I could see anything down across the Williamsburg Bridge. Too many trees to block the view as it was Sept 11th, one of the most beautiful days I had ever seen in New York. Numb, is how I felt. A million things were going through my mind. At my previous job I worked at a contact lens manufacturing company in California and had filled prescriptions for customers in the World Trade Center. I had told them I would come and visit them if I went back to flying. I never made it. Friends were dining there the night before. More friends were working in Manhattan as well. I had two sons in the military, one a Reconnaissance Marine, the other a Navy Corpsmen and the list goes on. I jumped up and called my mom and sent one mass text to all my family members that I was fine and had flown in safe the night before. I walked to the bank and people were covered in soot from head to toe and the town was silent, very silent.

Things had changed in a New York minute.

I got a call from Scheduling that my trips were canceled. I think it was the next week or week and a half or so that I was back at the airport to work. I had no worries as security had been beefed up beyond belief in New York. I was the Lead Flight Attendant on that flight and the Captain asked me if I knew we were the first flight out of LaGuardia International Airport. Hmmm, “I had no idea," I said, "but we’ll be fine.” How surreal. People were petrified. Friends and co-workers were stranded all over the world; Japan, Amsterdam, Paris and more.

It was the words that George Bush said that petrified me. ”We are at War.” My heart sank with two sons in the military. Shortly I flew to California and Hawaii to see them off to Iraq. I remember the flight back to New York. All I did was cry the entire six hours, nonstop. When I got off the plane, a young African American woman named Donna came up to me. She said she had watched me the entire flight and had found out that my two sons were going to Iraq at the same time. She said she had been praying for me and assured me they would return, both of them alive and in one piece. Wow, I believed her. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Donna wherever you are.

I eventually was furloughed from my job so I watched the war unfold on MSNBC and compared notes with my daughter-in law. We watched my son going across the desert in a Humvee. We would stay up all night and watch the battles. Whoever thought that could be possible. It was mesmerizing.

My sons returned home. Both of them! All in one piece! I’ll always remember thinking of what it would have been like if the Men in Black showed up at my door. I have great sorrow for those who have gone through that. God Bless you all. I was furloughed from the airlines industry two more times by the end of 2007. I joined TSA at John Wayne Airport Orange County, California on April 13, 2008. I brought knowledge and training from the airline industry and my customer service skills to the checkpoint which was not appreciated at first. I remember saying “it’s ok to smile and talk to the passengers.”

Enough said.

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Clear for Take-Off

Natalie Honda, John Wayne Airport (SNA)

As the pilot on your plane speaks the words “clear for take-off,” what exactly is clear? Is the runway clear? Are his crew members clear? Is his mind clear from fear of what happened on that tragic day we all know as 9/11? September 11, 2001, marks the day where innocent lives were taken by the very hands of what we know to be “terrorists.” This group of terrorists took more than lives that day, they also attempted to deter freedoms of travel by instilling fear in America.

I remember this day as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in my driver’s education class (I was in ninth grade), and my professor did not speak, he did not take roll, his eyes did not drift from the small television that sat in the upper corner of our classroom. Along with my classmates and me, millions of Americans witnessed this tragedy take place – either directly or indirectly. Our hearts grew weak for those lives that were taken this day, and our freedoms as a nation were changed forever. It was this very moment that called for a new federal agency to be introduced, Transportation Security Administration.

Being in the ninth grade and in a place in my life where I was truly lost, attempting to find myself, and nearly three years out from having to determine my collegiate future and what I was to do with it; this day, 9-11-2001 was not only a day of tragedy, yet a day of personal decision and clarity.

I always knew I wanted to be a member of law enforcement: protecting lives, enforcing laws and regulations, being a part of the solution to astronomical problems, as well as being a mentor for those who may find themselves in a lost state as I once was. Until this day in September, where I sat in my classroom in awe that heinous crimes such as these terrorist attacks happen in places other than Hollywood film productions, I saw no need and no interest in looking into a career of prevention. Having grown up in a small town in Southern California, where little to no crime took place (other than petty offenses) I was unaware of the importance of national security and anti-terrorism. Three years later, I went on to attend college achieving a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Sociology, all the while having this tragic memory in the forefront of my mind. I took the initiative and applied to the Transportation Security Administration under the Department of Homeland Security.

In March of 2013, I was hired by the federal government as a Transportation Security Officer (TSO). As a TSO, I am an advocate for safety, a U.S. citizen who prides herself on protecting people from enduring the fear of travel due to the mental engravings of what September 11th imposed upon this nation’s memory. Many people feared aviation travel post 9/11. When TSA was implemented, luggage and persons began to undergo thorough screening prior to being admitted on a plane, those fears began to decline. My goal as a member of the TSA is to maintain the decline in fear due to the effective nature of the screening process that has developed. As I inform passengers of what needs to be removed from their luggage to help make the process speedy and pleasant, I keep in mind that threats do exist, and my goal is to eliminate the possibility of anyone threatening my homeland and my family which resides here. Every plane that is “clear for take-off” into the beautiful sky of America is to arrive safely as its destination. My goal as an Officer has been molded based upon what I witnessed in my classroom that day in ninth grade. I have made it my personal mission to be effective, professional, successful, and to contribute to the prevention of terrorism. I truly look forward to the future of what my career has to offer me as this agency continues to develop and grow, along with what I have to offer every individual person that relies on me and this organization as a whole for safe travels and American freedom.

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Remembering 9/11 and What TSA Means to me

John T. Thweatt, HQ

I remember clearly, the day 9/11 came. I was working at the VA Hospital in Amarillo, Texas, working in the Business office when I heard from my coworkers who had access to a television saying something about an airplane hitting a building in New York City. So I got on the phone to my wife and told her something very strange is going on, you better turn on the news to check it out. By that time, the news crews had been alerted and the focus was now on the World Trade Towers; the second plane hit and she saw it unfold on the news right in front of our eyes.

I will never forget the fear, the shock and the terrible feeling of insecurity that came after the terrible events on 9/11. I remember the speculation and the uncertainty that followed once all the planes were grounded and we as a nation were looking for answers to why this act of aggression happened to us on our soil. What were we going to do and what can we do as a nation to stop this from happening to us again?  The terrorists have hit us in a very vulnerable position. What were we going to do next?

This May of 2013, I started my job with TSA as a TSO at the Bellingham International Airport in Bellingham, Washington. I totally enjoy making the difference to the new traveler who is not sure how to get through our checkpoint for the first time, the handicap and the elderly and those young families who have not traveled before. I know from life’s experiences that the little things can become the big things and a little bit of kindness can go a long way. I am honored when they thank me for what I do and they thank me quite often; and I am humbled. I am the friendly face of TSA they see when they first come through the long lines, giving them a hand, and offering advice, and most importantly giving them the piece of mind that when they board that aircraft that they know that they will all be safe when they arrive at their destination. It makes me feel good to know that at the end of the day, or as I hear the roar of the aircraft fly over the runway, that I have done my part to make our skies safe once again as I serve with some of the most dedicated men and women at our checkpoint. I could only be so proud and fortunate to work with all of them.

Latest revision: 10 February 2014