By Lee Roberts
So much has been made of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. With no disrespect, the day that lives in infamy during my lifetime is the terrorist attacks of 9-11.
This is what I remember. On Sept. 11, 2001 I went to work at the U.S. Southern Command Headquarters Public Affairs Office in Miami, Fla. I was an active duty Air Force technical sergeant serving in a joint service assignment. That morning the news reports on the television in my office began following what was unfolding at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and with the heroes on Flight 93 that crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa.
As the details became clear, I knew that America had been attacked and would soon be going to war. The nation would also begin mourning the needless loss of lives.
When the victims at the Pentagon were identified it saddened me to see Sheila Hein on the list. When I served in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office from 1996 to 1999, Sheila assisted me with my audio-visual requirements. She was a very kind, gentle and professional person who did not deserve such a fate. In a flash she was gone!
In the days that followed, I worked many days and weekends as a desk officer in the SOUTHCOM Crisis Action Team briefing leaders on public affairs issues related to the command’s support of the Global War on Terrorism.
In early 2002 I even spent a short amount of time working in the Joint Task Force 160 (Now JTF Guantanamo) media center at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. I escorted international and national media into Camp X-ray where the terrorists were initially being held until more permanent facilities could be constructed.
We gave the media access to the detention facilities, the field hospital where the terrorists were cared for, and set up interviews with the commander, chaplain and many others. The objective was to show the world the terrorists were being treated fairly according to the rules of war as set forth by the Geneva Conventions.
I remember thinking how surreal it was to be there witnessing history, playing a small role, and helping media worldwide tell the story.
So much has unfolded in the 11 years since the attacks of 9-11. It’s hard to believe this much time has passed. Yet our country is still healing. So many people have responded and sacrificed, including my own family who endured when I was absent and deployed during my military service. I’m very grateful they had courage and supported me.
That day 11 years ago is forever cemented into my memory.