9/11 Writing Contest Winner
Never Forget – by Fritz Kies

Like all Americans old enough to remember this event, I will never forget the events of not just that day, of where I was and from whom I heard the news, but I will never forget what also followed afterwards.

I had just completed my Navy Reserve weekend at Great Lakes, Illinois, assuming command of an augment unit of over 100 sailors. After the weekend was over I visited the home on Sunday evening of an old squadron mate and his family, rather than making the 5 hour drive back to Jesup. I decided to stay an extra day with Mark and return on Tuesday morning. As I was backing out of the driveway, Mark comes running up from the street corner after seeing his kids off on the school bus with a stricken look on his face. “Someone just said an airliner just flew into the World Trade Center.” Disbelief. We quickly went inside to watch the news, and were riveted to the picture as the second airliner struck. You see, Mark was an airline pilot, as were a lot of my Navy friends, and we both knew flight attendants, so we not only thought of all those people in the planes and the Towers, but would we personally know any of the flight crews?

As the reports continued of the Pentagon and Shanksville crashes, Mark called airline operations to find out if he knew any of the crews, and I called my Navy boss at Great Lakes, for I knew these events would have an effect on me in the days to come, and they did. Within a month my unit was mobilizing, it meant we were at war. I could not help but think of my father being at Pearl Harbor on the battleship Nevada during that infamous day 60 years earlier, and how these events gave me a closer connection to him. It was time to go home.

I remember it was a beautiful fall day for the drive back, not a cloud in the sky. I normally loved to have the music playing with the sun roof open, but this was no typical drive home. As I looked up, it struck me that there were no jets flying, no vapor trails, no white lined highways in the sky, just a clear, empty, vivid blue. I listened to no music, just news. This side of Dubuque I came across a car that had just gone into the ditch. I stopped to assist, luckily the driver was not injured but the car could not be driven. I phoned 911, but didn’t realize at the time how prophetic that number and date, would now be forever connected. The driver was heading to Waterloo, so I gave him a ride there before going home. Especially on that day, I thought a small act of kindness to a stranger was the best thing to do. I will never forget.
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