The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

My Memory of 9/11

I had just entered the Navy in Feburary of 2000; left on my first deployment on the Constellation in March 2001. In July, I left the ship from the Persian Gulf to go back to San Diego as part of an advance detachment. After a week of leave in Richmond, I flew back to SD to get back to work. Around September 7, the ship had stopped in Pearl Harbor to pick up families and friends for the “Tiger Cruise” back to San Diego. They were due back in port at NAS North Island on the 15th.

On the morning of 9/11, I woke up and turned on the TV.  As I did every day (and still do), I turned right to the news (CNN that day) With time differences and all (6 am on the west coast equals 9 am on the east), I woke up in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

At that point, I didn’t know a first plane had hit (the smoke from the first hit blended in with that from the second, to my still-not-awake eyes). I thought to myself, “Someone’s having a bad day.” After I got out of the shower, I found out the full story of both planes. Wasn’t much to do at that point besides wonder “what the hell?” along with the rest of the country, so I went to work.

Naval Station San Diego (where I was working at the time) was on alert; DEFCON 2 had been set. (if I remember correctly. I’m trying not to look up things and go off the top of my head). Block all the entrances, actually put rounds in the chambers, search anything, and deadly force authorized. When I finally got to my office, the Pentagon had been hit. I had heard rumors of planes being hijacked, but all I could think about was the fact that my country was being attacked, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

No work was getting done; we were pretty much all huddled around the TVs. The new guys who were waiting for the ship to come back were visibly shaken, as most of them had only been in the Navy for a few months. The older, more experienced guys (which, as I was told by my chief, included me at this point) were trying to keep them under control.

Then the news about Flight 93 started rolling in. The first reports that we got was that it had been shot down. That brighted my spirits a little bit, because it seemed like someone was finally doing something.

Finally, around 11-12 that day, the decision was made to close the base and send all non-essential personnel home. Our chief told us, point blank, “Be ready. We may be going back out there.” We actually didn’t head back out; after a lot of back and forth (I’m told), the decision was made to let my ship end its deployment and pull back into San Diego.

About a year and a half later, I would hear those same words-“Be ready”-from then-Vice Admiral Fallon (head of the Navy’s Central Command at the time) as we geared up for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I didn’t fully appreciate America and what we stood for until 9/11. To me, I was just another citizen-albeit one in the military-and that was it. That was enough. I saw the best of the American people that day and in the ones after. For the first time in my life, there were no blacks, whites, hispanics, illegal immigrants, or common criminals. As cliched as it may sound now, we were all Americans; united under a common purpose with a common enemy.

That’s changed. Now we fight ourselves.

I consider 9/11 the first day of my journey into war. This journey would take me back through the Gulf for Iraqi Freedom, and to Guantanamo for detainee operations. I know now that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks that day, but I didn’t care. At 21, all I knew was that “they” had attacked my country, and that “they” needed killing. Watching the planes launch for the first night of “Shock and Awe” in 2003 was my vengance; my small retribution for the harm done to my country.

I’m out of uniform now. A civilian in reality, but still at war along with my brothers and sisters in uniform. As I reflect on the events of 9/11, I reflect on the oath that I took as a federal employee, which is pretty much the same as the oath of enlistment:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same….

I’m still supporting. And defending.

I will never forget….or forgive.




Written by Coby Dillard

September 11, 2008 at 9:47 am

Posted in Editorials

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2 Responses

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  1. Thank you for your service D and for sharing your memory of that day.

    Today I pray for those who died and for the comfort of their loved ones.

    I praise the courage of the passengers on United Flight 93.

    I admire and thank the firefighters, emergency workers and citizens who rushed to the Towers and the Pentagon, and to the tens of thousands from across the country who followed to help.

    And today and each day since 9/11, I value more deeply and sincerely thank the men and women of the United States military and their civilian counterparts who have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to prevent another such attack.

    Since that day, I take time. Time to be good. Time to do good in my own small ways. Never forgetting that I am just one of many. One who has received so much and sacrificed so little. Remembering 9/11 reminds me that I am part of something greater than myself. Part of a great nation comprised of so many remarkable people. I am blessed to have been born and live in the USA.

    Since that day, I kiss my husband a little longer before he goes off to work in the morning, hug my kids a little tighter as they board the bus for school, stop a little longer to ‘catch up’ with my neighbors, say ‘yes’ when asked to give back to my community and country by donating and volunteering my money, time and talent. I take a little more time to smile and thank the cashier at the store, or wave at the cop as I drive through town. I pray a little more and a little harder each night that God look down with favor upon us all and keep us free from worry and harm.


    September 11, 2008 at 10:35 am

  2. “For the first time in my life, there were no blacks, whites, hispanics, illegal immigrants, or common criminals. As cliched as it may sound now, we were all Americans; united under a common purpose with a common enemy.”

    Not cliche at all.



    September 18, 2008 at 12:50 am

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