I served as a Chief Warrant Officer 5, in the New York Army National Guard, in the role of State Command Chief Warrant Officer, during 9/11. I worked directly under the Director of Military Personnel, Col. Paul Steves, at the state headquarters.
I was working in my office on the third floor of the Latham facility and listening to Don Imus on the radio, like I did every morning. Don mentioned on the air that he had heard a small plane had hit one of the twin towers in New York City. He said they were leveraging their sources to get more information of the incident.
A few minutes later he said that it appeared that it was not a small plane but an airliner that hit the building. I had a 5-inch black-and-white TV in my closet which I pulled out and put on.
They talked about the fact that it was verified to be an airliner and they were speculating as to how many people could be working in the tower that was hit. Numbers they talked about were in the thousands.
We all talked about the possibility that it was an accident, but most of us didn’t think so.
My boss, Col. Steves, came over into my office just at the time they announced that a second airliner had hit the other tower. My office was filled with around 10 people watching my little 5-inch TV and we all were bewildered and helpless. One of us said the possibility of an accident was out the window and it had to be an enemy action somehow, maybe hijacked planes.
Col. Steves received a phone call from the adjutant general’s office that the Division of Military and Naval Affairs Emergency Operations Center was open. He asked me if I had my Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) in the office and I told him it was at home just back from the cleaners. He directed me to go get it and report with one of my clerks at the time, Sgt. Todd Dreaney, to serve as his representative, G-1, for contact with each of the major commands, once their soldiers’ role was determined.
I remember that eerie ride home to Rotterdam and how weird it was that the sky was so blue and the temperature so perfect while this horrific disaster was happening. I definitely drove too fast home and back, telling my wife I wasn’t sure when I would be home, in that we were on 24-hour operations.
I reported to the Emergency Operations Center and was immediately tasked by the director, operations and training, to begin contacting the major commands, who had been directed to have their troops report to armories to prepare for missions.
Each of the major command representatives, every half hour or so, contacted myself or Sgt. Dreany with the numbers of troops they had at their armories. The biggest issue as the hours ticked on was that the numbers being reported were extremely low, while our adjutant general’s office was receiving information that there were large numbers of troops observed by law enforcement performing security missions around the World Trade Center area.
The deputy adjutant general told me that the numbers of troops I was giving him was ridiculous and in a very loud manner told me to get the true numbers. After numerous phone conversations with the major command representatives, I found out that large numbers of troops — wanting to do something before they were directed to report to armories — went direct to areas around the disaster and were working with authorities.
The commands, by around 8 p.m. that night, after sending senior officers and sergeants out to the area of operations, finally secured accurate numbers, gained command and control, and began funneling rosters to the state headquarters.
This reconciliation went on all night, while the 7-foot projection TV was on in the office occasionally, showing replays of people jumping from the buildings which is still ingrained in my mind. It took several hours before they finally stopped showing that horror on TV. The rest of the night was continuous phone calls and stories from the rubble that was the twin towers.
We had recurring meetings all that next morning, with my responsibility to continually receive and distribute soldier rosters and numbers for command and payroll purposes.
I finally turned over my responsibility to the next G-1 representative at around 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, and departed for my home.
I remember that drive like it was yesterday, stopping at a McDonald’s to buy breakfast. The guy at the counter asked where I was coming from, and told me breakfast was on the house and good luck. I went home and told my family what I knew and then slept for a few hours before gluing myself to the TV once again, and then reporting for G-1 duty again several more times in the following days.
It is certainly something I will never forget. I retired as a full-time New York Army National Guard soldier on 31 August 2004, with 33 years, nine months service. I then went back to work as a civilian contractor in September 2004, working directly for the director of military personnel, New York Army National Guard, until my complete retirement 30 September 2014.
-Charles M. Amoroso is a retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 with the New York Army National Guard.
More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section