When you go through security checkpoints, your mind is on making sure you got the metal out of your pockets and the liquids out of your carry-on bag and what gate you need to head to afterward. Your goal is to get through and get through quickly, which means no chit chat. No time to pay attention to people. Before I worked at TSA, it was the same for me.
Two years ago, TSA employees were given the chance to share their memories of 9-11 as part of a historical archive and a way to share our experiences as an organization. I read all of the stories that were submitted, and it was a humbling experience.
One of the men who works in my building was working in the Pentagon, in the innermost circle where the plane went in. When the smoke got to his area, he used the skills he learned in the Marines, got his gas mask, and joined his colleagues in rescuing others. There were a few stories of others from the Pentagon who came to TSA as well.
If you fly through Las Vegas, you might be screened by a woman who worked on the in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. She was in the office that morning, but left the building to run an errand, and just as she was returning, the first plane hit. She tried to get back in to help her boss and colleagues, but the firemen wouldn’t let her in. She came to TSA and has committed her service to her colleagues who died and the firemen who saved her life.
A member of the military lost a colleague in the World Trade Center and another one in the Pentagon. After he retired from active duty, he wanted to continue to serve his country, so he joined TSA as a bomb appraisal officer. He’s one of the guys who comes to resolve alarms and teaches officers about explosives detection techniques.
A law enforcement officer who lost family members on the plane that hit the Pentagon joined the Federal Air Marshal Service so he could work more actively to prevent another attack.
A Transportation Security Officer in Hawaii carries a picture of an usher at her niece’s wedding with her to work every day. Shortly after the wedding, he was on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center.
There were stories of people who lived near the crash sites who witnessed the events of the day. Some were near the buildings who had to scramble to get out, and some whose lives were spared when the Towers came down because someone helped them. A wife of a NYC fireman joined TSA to do her part. People who were high school students on 9-11 shared their stories.
Most of the stories were from people who didn’t know anyone on the planes or in the buildings, but felt a call to action. Over and over, they talked about wanting to do something , wrote “Not on my watch” and pledged their service to protect their country in memory of those who died.
We know you’re in a hurry when you’re going through security, but we wanted you to know that you might be screened or helped by someone like the people who shared their stories with us.
Today, we honor the victims of 9-11 and the heroes who gave their lives while trying to save others. Around the country, TSA’s officers, inspectors, supervisors and FAMs will rededicate themselves to the mission. We will never forget.
Thanks for all you do to help TSA keep the aviation system safe. And if you’d like, share your 9-11 story in the comments section.
TSA Blog Team Member