On Sep. 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m., an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed in the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The Sep. 11 attacks (also referred to as 9/11) were a series of four coordinated attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.
It was 5:45 a.m. in Tillamook County when the plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Citizens woke up to the devastating news.
Joel Stevens, county council for Tillamook and Captain for the National Guard, was an undergrad living in the valley at the time of the attack. He remembers getting up and turning on the news. He recalls “the shock of it” and the uncertainty if the attacks would be on the east coast, or head to the west coast as well.
Stevens said that the fire department and emergency responders in the area were on full alert. His father had been in the army.
“Seeing something like that solidified my desire to serve in the military,” Stevens said of the 9/11 attacks.
Stevens is a captain in the Oregon Army National Guard and is a search advocate for the military. He is also the county council for Tillamook, a former judge, and teaches criminal justice and criminal law at Tillamook Bay Community College.
Stevens says that events like 9/11 are a reminder of how important the military is in our lives, as well as the work of the first responders. He says that the military is an honor to be a part of and is very humbling.
“It’s really important that we remember events like this,” Stevens said. “Some remember it just like yesterday. It’s important to continue to remember.”
After 9/11, there was a sense of patriotism and national unity in the U.S., Stevens said.
“It just made me so proud to be an American and motivated to serve,” Stevens said. “It’s shows how truly resilient America is when challenged.”
Bill Hatton, Tillamook County Veterans Service Officer, was at Marines Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Him and all of the Marine Corps Engineer Battalion Commanders and Wing Engineer Support Sqaudron Commanders were attending a conference.
“Our conference objective was to determine how to downsize the “Iron Mountain” of heavy equipment (dozers, scrapers, graders, front end loaders, forklifts, etc.),” Hatton said. “Because of cutbacks in personnel, since the end of ‘The First Gulf War’, we did not have enough heavy equipment operators and mechanics to maintain all of the heavy equipment that was on our battalion Table of Equipment.”
The Marine Corps was being introduced to ‘Just in Time Logistics.’ The concept was to have the minimum amount of equipment on the parking lot to conduct training. They were told that ‘When the balloon goes up’, the suppliers will deliver the equipment that they need in order to go to war and perform their combat mission.
“Most of us figured that it was better to surplus our excess equipment and keep only what we could maintain,” Hatton said. “It didn’t make sense to have broken equipment rusting on the parking lot at our units. Most of us had served in Desert Storm, we had experienced the ‘100-hour war’. We figured that this concept of ‘Just in Time Logistics’ was the future for the Marine Corps.”
There was one lone abstainer. Lieutenant Colonel Steve Anderson was a prior enlisted Marine. As a young enlisted Marine in Vietnam, Anderson had witnessed the losses of Marines and equipment from mines and booby traps. He stated that if they were to go to war, they would need everything they have, and more, in order to cover their combat losses.
As this discussion heated up, the senior engineer officer at Camp LeJeune walked into the meeting.
“You guys won’t believe it,” Colonel Anderson said. “An airliner got off course and hit one of the twin towers.”
Hatton says that everyone shook their heads, thinking it was a tragedy. The Colonel left the conference room. About 15 minutes later, the Colonel walked back into the room with a shocked expression on his face.
“The second tower has been hit,” Anderson said.
The men knew this was a terrorist attack. The Colonel told them to take a break from the conference and reconvene in a room that had a television.
“Like millions of Americans across the nation, we were glued to the TV, watching the live coverage of the event.”
When they returned to their conference, there was an immediate shift in the discussion. They began by talking about what it would take to get the broken equipment fixed and ready for deployment. In the next few months, they tested the capability of the equipment manufacturers ability to meet their repair needs with the ‘Just in Time Logistics’ support concept.
On Nov. 25, 2001, Task Force 58, which consisted of the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units, invaded Afghanistan. On March 20, 2003, U.S. forces invaded Iraq.
“I don’t know how much of the ‘Iron Mountain’ was hit by improvised explosive devices, direct fire, or indirect fire during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Hatton said. “However, I remember the lesson from Lieutenant Colonel Steve Anderson: ‘When the balloon goes up, you never have enough of what you need. You go to the fight with what you have.’”
Most of the Sep. 11, 2001 conference attendees met again in Iraq, as the Marine Corps coordinated their actions for the invasion.
Tillamook County Sheriff Jim Horton was working as a Public Information Officer at the time of 9/11. His oldest son was just a couple of months old. He had been up late the night before and got to work at 8:30 a.m. He had heard the news on the radio and when he got to the sheriff’s office, the news was on.
“I remember feeling a sense of shock,” Horton said. “Shocked that a terrorist attack of that magnitude happened in the U.S.”
Horton said that it was a horrible tragedy and one of the larger events that happened in the U.S.
“It was very surreal,” Horton said. “It didn’t seem real.”
Horton said that after the event, there was a sense of urgency in the country. Airports were grounding aircraft and the U.S. was forever changed.
“From that point on, everyone was on alert,” Horton said.
Locally, everyone in public service was vigilant and on alert, wondering what the next event was and when it would happen. There was an uncertainty and a fear of the unknown. Horton feared for his family and worried about what was going to happen in the world.
Horton remembers that things dramatically changed after that tragic day. Everyone was listening to news outlets constantly. Several global events that happened after this event were tied to the 9/11 day.
“It made us look around more,” Horton said.
People realized that terrorist attacks can happen in the United States. This event changed the country permanently.