September 10, 2021 – It is difficult to comprehend that twenty years has passed.
As the nation approaches this somber milestone of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, El Paso County honors the anniversary—and all the courage, commitment, sacrifice, loss, heartache, and pain associated with it—through remembrance. The El Paso Board of County Commissioners, just like so many others, vividly recall where they were on that fateful morning. In remembering, we hope to honor all those that made, and continue to make, the ultimate sacrifice.
“On that morning, I was stationed at Robins AFB in Georgia running the 200-person C-130E/H program office for the US Air Force,” said Stan VanderWerf, El Paso County Board Chair. “I was on the flight-line taking a tour of C-130 maintenance when we got word of the attack. We were ordered back to our offices, where we were immediately briefed on emergency protection procedures. The next morning, I received orders from HQ Air Force to surge the Air Force’s 700-aircraft C-130 fleet. This meant getting every airplane possible into flying status. We were preparing for war. We supported worldwide operations, including support for the hundreds of additional foreign C-130s flown by our allies under the Foreign Military Sales program. It was like running an airline in wartime.”
“I remember that day, that hour, distinctly,” said Cami Bremer, El Paso County Board Vice-Chair. “I was a journalism student at the University of Georgia and was in a news writing class penning a ‘current event’ story when the first plane hit. The professor gathered the class and took us to the broadcast journalism room, where we were surrounded with monitors and screens displaying the latest news…and then the second plane hit, news of the pentagon and a crumbling tower all played out in front of those of us who had chosen journalism as our future careers. In disbelief, I watched the unfolding events, understanding the gravity of that moment and the profound impact on our generation. At the same time, I was trying to get ahold of my future husband, a 2nd Lieutenant stationed at Schriever AFB, knowing that the tragic events of that day would not only define the future of the nation, but also our future together.”
“I was at my home in Colorado Springs when I got a call from my mom to turn on the TV – America was under attack,” said Holly Williams, El Paso County Commissioner District 1. “As I watched the news coverage, I remained fixated on the images of the planes crashing into towers. Media coverage of such images is rare today, but they will always be vivid for me. For the children of this generation, these images and the reasons for the resulting war are critical to understanding the historical significance of September 11th. I will always honor and respect our military, firefighters, and police officers who are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedoms, safety, and country. May God continue to bless these guardians of freedom and America.”
“I was in my first year of college,” said Carrie Geitner, El Paso County Commissioner District 2. “I went to school in the evenings and worked full time during the day but was at home sick that day. My mom called me, barely even able to speak, and told me to turn on the tv. I watched the news coverage and cried as the second plane hit the tower. Though I hadn’t met my husband yet, he was inspired to serve our country by the events of that day. As a result, that day ultimately shaped both of our lives, and that of our children – from our family going through a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, to both of us being motivated to protect our American values by serving in government.”
“I was at my new military assignment as an Air Force ROTC professor at USC, having just returned from a year-long Southern Watch deployment in Iraq,” said Longinos Gonzalez, Jr., El Paso County Commissioner District 3. “As I watched the news unfold, it became clear that everything was about to change. I was a rollercoaster of emotions: sadness, praying for survivors, fear, anger, and pride in how first responders and everyday citizens came together to rescue and recover the injured and the lost. In the aftermath of 9/11, I witnessed the greatest coming together of our country and our fellow Americans. The dedication and resolve to push forward were a testament to the strength and resiliency of our nation and its people.”