On Sept. 11, 2001, my family and I set out for the Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Army training base where my nephew Nicholas was due to graduate from basic training.
After driving quite a while, we decided to stop at a shopping mall to stretch our legs a bit. When we came out, we saw a woman talking on her cellphone screaming, “not the Pentagon too!” Then we heard the sirens and wondered what was going on.
Returning to the car, we turned on the radio and found out planes had hit the Twin Tower buildings in New York City. As we left the parking lot, we saw a sign that read Pennsylvania Avenue and realized we were in Washington.
Crossing over the Potomac River, we could see smoke coming out of the Pentagon building. It was a horrible feeling, thinking about the people who worked there.
When we reached the Fort Jackson hotel, we were told the base was in lockdown and they didn’t know if they would be having the graduation ceremony the next day.
We were told to call the base and find out. On the first call, they said they were not sure but to call again later. On the second call they said yes.
On the way to the base, the streets were lined on both sides with uniformed Army men holding their rifles. It was frightening!
In order to get into the base, we had to have special tickets and were told our car would be searched inside, as well as the trunk.
The ceremony was beautiful and very impressive. All in all, it was an experience I will never forget.
Whenever I think of 9/11, I say a prayer for the men and women who died there.
May they rest in peace.
NOTE: Dolores Van Detta passed away on Aug. 14. She mailed her memories of 9/11 to the Daily Gazette in June. This letter is published with the permission of the Van Detta family.
More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section