9/11 and the West Point Experience

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by scoutpilot, Sep 10, 2011.

  1. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot 5-Year Member

    Apr 29, 2010
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    Most of you candidates are too young to really remember 9/11, as I would guess your average age at the time to be about 7 or 8. As a result, you likely remember 9/11 in much the same way that I remember the Challenger explosion--significant, heavy, but distant and slightly amorphus in its gravitas.

    9/11 undeniably changed the West Point experience in more ways than I can possibly recall to you or that you could likely fathom. There was a time when driving through the gate garnered nothing more than a friendly wave from the MP in the guardhouse. There were no standoff barriers, no ID checks, and largely no worries.

    On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was pulling my first shift on CCQ. I recall thinking that the first three hours of the day had dragged on forever, which meant that it was approximately 0830 Eastern Daylight Time. I thought the day would be the most boring and endless day I could imagine. Twenty minutes later, the world changed forever.

    The remainder of my shift was spent tracking down the whereabouts of the parents of the other cadets in my company, as many worked in the Pentagon and many others were traveling by air that morning. Sadly, the day proved to be as endless as I thought it would be, but for all the most terrifying reasons.

    Ten years on, as I look back, I think many of us are only now fully grasping what we lost--as a nation, as a class, and as young men and women. For other college students, 9/11 was surely a tragedy and a national trauma, but it was safely distant from their lives. It was a chance to discuss the clash of civilizations and the evils of globalization and the myriad policy ramifications of such a horrific act of terror.

    Two weeks ago, at the memorial for CPT Dave Hortman, I was lucky to run into many classmates I hadn't seen in years. We agreed that we honestly had no idea the price we'd pay. As candidates, and plebes, we were all as naive and doe-eyed as you surely are, no less sure that we "knew all the risks." We did not. They were beyond are understanding then, as they are for you now. They can only be known in hindsight.

    We had all the same dreams and aspirations and every expectation that our lives would be universally blessed with great successes and triumphs. Sadly, for 13 members of our class, their lives would end before they ever really began. They left to lead the finest soldiers on earth in distant, lonely places. They died there. Far from their mothers. Far from their wives and girlfriends. Far from their homes.

    Those of us who have returned have done so in our own ways. For many, that means carrying the burden of unimaginable wounds, both seen and unseen.

    When I am asked what 9/11 means to me, what ten years means, I am hesitant to say. In many ways, it means loss that transcends one bright and clear September morning. It means lives cut short. It means limbs ripped off. It means years of the endless grind of war. It means going away as one man and returning as another. It means the end of our innocence. It means, in total, a lost decade.

    I hope, for you candidates, that 9/11 does not define your career or your class as it has mine. I feel hopeful that after ten years we may finally be moving forward. I wish very much that you could experience the West Point that existed ten years ago today. It is gone, likely never to return. It is up to you to define the future of West Point, for those of you who become cadets. As you do, do so with the memory of all that we've done--good and bad--in the first ten years since 9/11.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2011
  2. BillSL

    BillSL USMA Class of 2016 5-Year Member

    Mar 8, 2011
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    Touching words, scoutpilot. Thank you for your insight.
  3. TheKnight

    TheKnight Class of 2014 5-Year Member

    Jun 8, 2009
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    Awesome post.

    It puts things in perspective.
  4. TheDukeOfEarl

    TheDukeOfEarl 5-Year Member

    Feb 26, 2011
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    A superb rememberance, scoutpilot. Thanks for sharing. Now..... if you'll excuse me..... I think I have something in my eye .........
  5. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar 5-Year Member

    Jan 27, 2010
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    Beautiful, just beautiful.


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