Remembering 9/11


Fordham swim coach part of Ground Zero rescue team

Afghan QB helped heal himself, friends with play

Charleston track star honors father lost in tragedy

Video Photo Gallery narrated by TNT’s Jim Huber

In their own words

Scott Strasemeier: Navy’s associate athletics director for sports information is currently in his 21st year at the Academy. Read more

Brian Stann: A former Navy linebacker, Stann graduated in 2003 and went on to serve two tours in combat overseas. He received the Silver Star for his leadership in battle in Iraq. Read more

John Dowd: The senior offensive guard for Navy is a native of Staten Island, N.Y., and was 11 years old on 9/11. On Sept. 11, 2010, Dowd ran onto the field for a game against Georgia Southern carrying an American flag that had previously been flown over special-operations bases in Afghanistan, raised at the World Trade Center site, and will be returned to Ground Zero for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Read more

Ben Bertelson: The junior baseball student-athlete and management major at Air Force was in his fifth grade classroom in Midland, Texas, when the events of 9/11 occurred. Read more

Andy Berg: The current assistant men’s ice hockey coach at Air Force was a junior at the Academy during 9/11. Read more

Randee Farrell: Farrell was the senior captain of the Army women’s soccer team in 2001. She currently is a marketing officer for the university and the officer representative for the women’s soccer team. Read more

James Flowers: Flowers was coach of the Army softball team when the events of 9/11 occurred. He retired from the athletics department in 2009 and witnessed his recruits take on a greater sense of purpose and a greater pride wearing the West Point uniform. Read more

Charles Wynne: The current director of image management and strategy at the NCAA national office worked for the public relations staff for the U.S. Air Force. Wynne was at the Pentagon on 9/11. Read more

William Walker: The vice director of athletics at Air Force is also a 1983 graduate of the Academy. Read more

Brian Lorusso: Senior Cadet Brian LoRusso grew up on Long Island and was barely a teenager on Sept. 11, 2001. He is the captain of the Army lacrosse team that also includes his younger brother, Larry. His two older brothers, Nick and Kevin, also played on the team. The international and comparative legal studies major will graduate a second lieutenant and, depending on where he is stationed, could see combat. Nick and Kevin have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. Read more

About the project

As the nation prepares to acknowledge the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this Sunday, asked select student-athletes and staff from some of the Association’s service academies about how the tragic events of 2001 affected their lives.

Student-athletes either from the graduating class of 2002 or 2003 talk about the immediate impact of 9/11, and current student-athletes who will be graduating now after the death of Osama bin Laden reflect on 10 years of post-9/11 life. Also, staff who were at their schools 10 years ago offer their perspective on both then and now.

Remembering 9/11

Publish date: Sep 8, 2011

In their own words: Charles Wynne

The current director of image management and strategy at the NCAA national office worked for the public relations staff for the U.S. Air Force. Wynne was at the Pentagon on 9/11.

If you worked in the Pentagon as I did on 9/11, the upcoming 10-year anniversary is more than just a moment of silence. It is a time to reflect on what happened that day and all that has happened since.

“Standing there, you knew America was now at war and your life and those of hundreds of thousands were about to change forever.”

When American Airlines Flight 77 hit the opposite side of the building at 9:37, I had just left a meeting in the basement and was on the way back to my fourth-floor office. Who knew I was going to be lucky at that moment to not die, get hurt or lose any friends that day? 

My neighbor at home in the cul-de-sac was not so fortunate. Clayton was out of town on Sept. 11 but would ultimately attend 32 funerals during the following six months. An Army civilian, his unit had taken a direct hit. The last funeral was for a co-worker who was identified using DNA from a finger tip. It was the only piece of the body they found.

Before the attack, only the most dedicated and perhaps crazy people would tell you they enjoyed the ‘five-sided puzzle palace’ experience. The Pentagon is mostly long hours, difficult commutes, impossible tasks and frustration at not being able to make things happen quickly. But that all went away the moment the Boeing 757 crashed through the Indiana limestone on the outside of the building. Suddenly our lives and our jobs burned with intensity.

There were lots of heroes that day. I was not one of them.

After evacuating the building, I sent my office co-workers home. As I worked my way around to the satellite media trucks to help with the media coverage, the enormity of the tragedy began to sink in. It was unbelievable. Minutes before, this side of the building had been the first of the long-awaited refurbished wings. Now it was a huge cavernous hole three concentric rings deep filled with raging fire, black oily smoke, and twisted and charred debris. It was like nothing I had ever seen.

Standing there, you knew America was now at war and your life and those of hundreds of thousands were about to change forever.

We all heaved a sigh of relief when an F-15 fighter jet appeared in the sky. We had been told a fourth plane had been hijacked but we didn’t know about the heroes on board United Airlines Flight 93 yet. I remember feeling bad for the poor pilot. If the fourth hijacked airplane really was headed to D.C., he would have to shoot it down. Try living with that. 

Nor will I ever forget the loud cheer that went up when a fireman on top of the building unfurled a huge American flag from the top of the flame-splattered roof. Spirits soared at the sight of the red, white and blue. Talk about an emotional jump start. Moments before we had been knocked down but now we were back on our feet ready to get on with business.

With cell phones not working, I used a landline telephone in one of the Arlington National Cemetery maintenance buildings to call my wife. It was a pretty emotional call. She had been on the phone talking to my mom about the Twin Towers when the TV coverage broke in to say the Pentagon had been attacked. Fortunately, one of my co-workers called her a short while later to say I was OK. By then, neighbors had come over to keep her company. Not knowing what had happened, a mattress delivery man knocked on the door to make a scheduled delivery. An American of Arab descent, he would stop by two weeks later to make sure I was OK. When I arrived home that night, there was a list on the kitchen table. More than 30 people had called to see if I was OK.

Funny how you can remember such small acts of kindness 10 years later.

The morning of Sept. 12 dawned clear and bright. Ironically, I was supposed to be on vacation. Instead, I was in uniform headed for work. Driving in, you could see parts of the building were still on fire. No matter. We were open for business and it felt good walking into the building.

I have one lingering memory from the day after. After passing through security, I walked down the B corridor and looked out toward the interior courtyard. Normally an oasis of green amidst five stories of blah concrete, it was the perfect place to eat lunch when it was warm outside. Even though the courtyard had been untouched by the crash and fire, there was something different about it. There in the grass were row upon row of imprints in the size and shape of human bodies. I knew instantly the five-acre courtyard had served as a temporary morgue the night before. There they rested through the night before being removed sometime earlier that morning. 

You don’t forget things like that.

Pray for peace.