Today is another date that “will live in infamy” along with Pearl Harbor.
Exactly 12 years ago today the term “9-11” entered our vocabulary and will never leave it.
There will, or should, be plenty of first-person memories in the news today.
This column is about an anonymous military chaplain’s story of one incident that received no national publicity, but certainly should have.
The chaplain told a friend the story, adding that he had not seen or heard about the incident during the massive non-stop news presentations about 9-11 as it was happening.
Immediately after Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon there was panic everywhere.
There were many children in the Pentagon daycare center, and few workers to get them out.
The center’s supervisor didn’t know how she would get all the helpless young ones to safety, or even where to take them.
A young Marine ran into the center and asked if he could help with anything.
The supervisor explained the plight, and the Marine ran out. So much for help from an unknown Marine, she thought.
But within minutes, the young Marine was back, with 40 other Marines in tow.
They went to work as if executing a drill, with some Marines pushing baby cribs with an infant inside and others carrying toddlers.
The group exited the building and got the youngsters to safety near the Potomac River.
Then they maneuvered the heavy cribs into a large circle, and put the toddlers inside the circle to keep them from wandering off. It was reminiscent of “circling the wagons” in the Old West during attacks.
The Marines then took up positions outside the circle, in case a toddler somehow got out of the circle of cribs.
None did, but the Marines all stayed at their posts.
A tad of organization began to permeate the initial panic, and word began to spread to anxious parents where to find their children.
All 40 Marines stayed at their posts until all parents came to get their children, most of whom were having a ball playing in their new, unexpected environment.
One person who heard the story said it called to mind a quote from President Ronald Reagan who once said about U.S. Marines: “Most of us wonder if our lives made any difference. Marines don’t have that problem.”
I was not familiar with that quote, but have known a bunch of Marines in my active duty and civil service days, and must say I heartily agree with it. The email this story came from had no attribution, but since it is about unknown Marines, I accept it as true.
Page 2 of 2 - I have no doubt there are hundreds, if not thousands, of such unreported anecdotes of heroism and compassion toward strangers 12 years ago today. Some 60 visitors from the German Staff College had arrived at Fort Leavenworth the night before, and had come from New York.
As they watched events unfold on a large screen TV that was quickly hooked up in a classroom for them to watch, one really big major had tears rolling down his cheeks.
He explained that two days before, the German students had all been at the top of the World Trade Center building, and the import of what had just happened hit them quite hard.
The only relic from 9-11 I’m aware of in the area is a large piece of a beam from the World Trade Center building on display in the Military Heritage Museum in St. Joseph.
It’s worth a trip to St. Joseph to see it, particularly at this time of year.
Americans will never forget Pearl Harbor, nor will we forget the equally infamous 9-11.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.