Hello! Please Do Join The JAYCEES for a real neat Autumn Program
Season - VOLUNTEERS Are Always Needed & Welcomed - THANKS!
Professor Sean P. Henseler, CDR, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
& President of the West Warwick Veterans Council
* Background Below Noted *
JAYCEES Commemorate 9/11 Ceremony (Riverpoint COMMUNITY Park)
Saturday, September 11th
* Commemoration 9/11 Ceremony @ JAYCEE Arboretum ~ 4:PM *
Riverpoint COMMUNITY Park
Wednesday, September 15th
Bryant University Service Fair
10:Am till 2:Pm
Friday, September 17th
* CITIZENSHIP Day@ U R I ~ 10:Am till 2:Pm *
Memorial Union Ballroom
Wednesday, Septembert 22nd
* 5th Annual Family Resource Fair ~ 4 - 8:Pm *
Deering Middle school
Friday, September 24th
* NOMINATE JAYCEE Community Cultural Citizens Awards ~ *
Saturday, September 25th
* Arctic Village Association Festival ~ 9:Am - 4:Pm *
Saturday, November 20th
* National Family Volunteer Day ~ 2:Pm - 4:Pm *
* National Public Lands Day ~ 10:Am - 2:Pm *
At the award-winning JAYCEE Arboretum, enjoy fun-filled landscaping such as planting fall flowers, trimming trees, pruning shrubbery, restoring planting beds, painting fences, shoring up trail/embankments, fertilizing, watering, sweeping lane, trail walking/hiking along the state Senator Donald Roch Riverwalk! The 1.3 mile wilderness trail meanders along the confluence of the Pawtuxet River.
The Award-Winning JAYCEE CORRIDOR & ARBORETUM
Thank you so very much for your kind consideration.
JAYCEES ... America's Generational Leaders ..Worldwide
(e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org * www.kentcountyjaycees.org
9/11: A Personal Recollection
On the morning of September 10, 2001, after a brief visit with my family in West Warwick, Rhode Island I flew from Providence back to Jacksonville, Florida to rejoin my command, Carrier Group SIX, stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS John. F. Kennedy (CV-61). To this day I vividly recall looking out the window at the majestic view of sunny Manhattan as I flew down the coast. I had no idea that would be the last time I’d ever set eyes on the “Twin Towers” that represented America’s economic might.
Early on the morning of September 11 I stood on the Kennedy’s flight deck as we pulled away from the pier in Mayport, Florida. Along with the other ships in our “Battle Group,” we were headed out to sea to begin routine training in advance of our impending deployment to the Persian Gulf. As I watched the hustle and bustle that always accompanies getting underway I was suddenly interrupted by a young sailor who had been sent to find me. Clearly out of breath the sailor stammered, “Commander, you’ve got to come down and see what just happened on TV.” I raced down to my workspace and joined a handful of others staring intently at the television. On the screen smoke was billowing from the top of one of the World Trade Center towers. The announcers weren’t sure what to make of it and were speculating that perhaps a small plane had inadvertently flown into the building. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, a jet purposefully smashed into the side of the other tower. The group of sailors around the TV looked on in stunned silence which quickly turned into abject horror. I don’t know how or why but I knew at that exact moment that the United States had been attacked and that my life was likely to change drastically.
My initial hunch was confirmed barley twenty minutes later when I was hauled into the Admiral’s office and the wizened Chief of Staff thrust a set of orders into my hand and asked, “What does this mean?” I read the now crumpled orders. They stated simply; “Defend the East Coast of the United States of America.” I looked up at the Chief of Staff and recall thinking, with the Cold War over who in their right mind ever would have ever have imagined they would be holding in their hand orders that said, “Defend the East Coast.” Snapping me out of my thoughts, the Chief of Staff persisted, “JAG, what do these orders mean?” I wanted to say Captain, you’re the second most senior officer in the Battle Group, aren’t you supposed to tell me what these orders mean? But it quickly dawned on me that, as the senior legal advisor to the Admiral and the Battle Group, I wasn’t being asked to interpret the relatively straightforward orders. Rather, I was being asked: If necessary, who in the chain of command would authorize the shoot down of a civilian airliner by one of the ships or aircraft in our formidable strike group?
As we steamed north up the coast all air traffic in the US was grounded for national security reasons. However, there were still flights airborne, to include international flights set to land in the US. No one knew if any of the planes still aloft might be used by terrorists to attack another target. As such, I set about trying to obtain the Rules of Engagement for our surreal, once-in-a-lifetime mission. More specifically, I was trying to find out who in the chain of command actually could, or would, authorize the shoot down of a civilian aircraft.
As luck would have it, we identified a flight inbound to the US and descending towards the Mid-Atlantic region. One of our new F/A 18 “Hornet” pilots (a “nugget” in Navy parlance) was directed to “join up” with the airliner and make contact in order to ascertain the plane’s intentions. While our pilot was indeed a skilled aviator he had little experience with these types of situations. But then again, how many pilots did have experience joining up on civilian airliners near US airspace and questioning their intent? Raising the tension in our command center aboard the ship, the airliner’s pilots did not respond after repeated attempts to contact them. As seconds turned into minutes the airliner continued on its descending profile towards the general vicinity of our nation’s capitol. At this point multiple land based aircraft were “scrambled” to assist with the intercept. In the end, the airliner’s pilots finally communicated their innocent intention to land at a US airport and were escorted to their destination. However, for a brief moment, I wondered if I would play some role in the shoot down of a civilian aircraft. As was later reported in the press, the Vice President of the United States stated that he was the individual who would authorize the downing of an airliner were it deemed necessary.
While I had a sense then that 9/11 was likely to be a “game changer” with respect to US national security policy, I had no idea that 9/11 would lead me to deploy off the coast of Pakistan where our jets would bomb Afghanistan or to Djibouti in order to prevent the “lawless Horn of Africa” from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. I had no idea that I would later deploy to Baghdad and that while there I would become intimately familiar with the fallout from “Abu Ghraib,” that I would live through a sectarian civil war where bodies piled up in the Tigris River daily, that I would help lead missions that would ultimately locate secret Iraqi torture chambers, or that I would participate in the detention of American citizens who are now suing my chain of command in US Federal District Court. I had no idea that I’d be asked to return to Iraq for a second time to help draft the anti-corruption portion of our campaign plan, and no idea that I’d hear a priest order me and my fellow worshippers to “hit the deck” in a trailer that doubled as a Church while rockets and mortars rained down on Easter Sunday. I had no idea that I would travel to Tajikistan to help win a war I initially participated in eight years earlier. I had no idea that I would end up teaching our next generation of military leaders about the law surrounding “targeted killings” or the legality of military commissions at “Gitmo.” Most importantly, I had no idea that 9/11 would begin a chain of events that would have me separated from my wife and three children for several years and that while deployed I would receive notice that my cancer stricken mother was on her deathbed.
For me, and most US military servicemen and women, 9/11 and its fallout radically altered our lives and those of our families. Many died far too young, leaving behind grieving families. Thousands now live, and some amazingly redeploy with, artificial limbs. Tens of thousands more are learning to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The rates for suicide, divorce, and alcohol dependency are all much higher for service members than the rest of society. In short, since 9/11 a small percentage of our population has made, and will continue to make, significant sacrifices so that their family, friends, and the country they love will remain safe.
However, I certainly view 9/11 with a wider lens than how it impacted my life and those of my fellow servicemen. At times, in my mind I see the towers being hit, hear the screams of those trapped inside the buildings, look on helplessly as desperate victims jump from 80 stories above the earth, smell the smoke and feel the searing heat that hundreds of brave firemen and policemen fought through in an effort to save innocent lives, and see people wiping the ash out of their eyes as the debris from two fallen towers engulfs an entire city. I still see in my head images of people desperately searching for their loved ones at “Ground Zero” after the attack and widows of young firemen and their children crying because they will never see their daddy ever again. Seared into my memory is the image of a large American flag draped from the Pentagon roof and the cell phone account of heroes rushing the cockpit of a hijacked plane rallying behind the matter of fact directive “Are you guys ready? Let’s Roll.” I also recall a sense of panic which morphed into an outpouring of Patriotism that seemed to instill everyone with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for the freedoms and security that we enjoy as Americans. I also recall an outpouring of support from people from around the world who were also reeling in shock at the images they saw on TV. Much has changed since then.
On the anniversary of 9/11 I’m hopeful all Americans old enough to remember the attack will reflect on their own personal memories of the day’s events and the subsequent impact it has had on their lives. For those young children who do not possess their own memories I urge their parents, families, and friends to share your recollections with them. The war against terrorism rages on literally around the world and there appears no doubt that the next generation will continue to deal with this seemingly intractable problem. If we, as a nation, harbor any hope of prevailing in this “Long War,” then we would be wise to “Never Forget” the impact the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 had on the very soul of America .
Sean Henseler, CDR, USN, JAGC (Ret.), is the President of the West Warwick , RI Veterans Council.