There are certain dates in history that Americans will forever remember where they were at the exact moment an event unfolded. Sept. 11, 2001 is etched in the memories of those — young and old — who lived through the unprecedented attacks. Do you remember where you were on 9/11?
Navy Lt. Travis Greenaway, 25, recalls being sent home early from school on 9/11 and watching his mom, Vicky, react emotionally.
“I remember this day. I was in the third grade and I was coming home … and my mom was in the living room, you know she was crying and I was looking at the TV and I see the plane going. I don’t know if it was live or a rerun, and I remember she was crying because my dad was in New York stationed on the Kennedy — he’s a retired [Navy] chief — so I remember that and once that happened and as soon as I stepped foot up here [9/11 Memorial] that came back to mind,” he said.
Greenaway, who currently serves aboard the USS Jason Dunham, was among a group of Naval officers and enlisted members attending a promotion and reenlistment ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial during this year’s Fleet Week New York. He described the opportunity to participate as “very special.”
“… all the guys who lost their life here — and their families are still struggling — and I remember that and that encourages me and keeps me going serving my country,” he added.
Growing up as a military kid, Greenaway benefitted from a strong support system. It was on full display during the ceremony as a large group of his family members attended, holding banners to send messages of pride. His father, Stephen Greenaway, is a retired Navy chief who also experienced an intersection of emotions as he realized the gravity of where they were.
“… it’s our first time here at the 9/11 Memorial — very first time — and as I approach the memorial itself, as I got closer to it, there was an internal feeling. And it was like everything was coming back because, as you mentioned earlier, I was serving at that time of 9/11 and I felt this certain distress within me that wow, and just seeing the names and everything was really bringing me back to where it was almost 18 years ago,” he said. “To have Travis here, as far as the promotion and everything else that’s going on, it’s very significant. It’s a happy, kind of sad feeling, but overall, we’re very proud of him.”
Junior enlisted from the Navy and Coast Guard were also on hand. The formation stood in front of the Freedom Tower with their right hand raised to recite the enlistment oath being administered by Navy Adm. Christopher Grady. Many participants, like Electronics Technician 3rd Class Alex Houston, were just elementary school students in 2001.
Houston grew up in Alabama and said, though he was far from what was happening in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., he remembers the confusion about what was happening. Now, being a part of America’s Navy, he was honored to recommit his service at this location.
“Like Adm. Grady was saying earlier, he said people choose where they want to reenlist for a reason, whether it be significant. Some people do it on their boat or wherever they want, but this place — to be here, this far — to do something that’s so meaningful to me at this location is just spectacular,” he said.
Newly-promoted Lt. j.g. Nicole Hetzer shared a similar sentiment. She commissioned two years ago after attending the Naval Academy.
“I was recruited by the Naval Academy to go swim for them and when I did my first visit there, I fell in love with the school. Everybody had the same mentality as me, they wanted to do something bigger than themselves and they were just really driven and hardworking and I wanted to be in that environment myself, so I joined the Navy,” she said.
The Long Island-native grew up not far from the site of the World Trade Center and her dad was on duty at the time as a deputy sheriff. She was speechless about the chance to stand in uniform at the same site.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better spot. All the meaning and just, I can’t even describe it. It’s amazing,” Hetzer said.
As the 18th-year mark approaches, those too young to comprehend the meaning of the 9/11 tragedy are now old enough to willingly comprehend what it means to join a wartime force. Lt. Greenaway encourages others to commit their life to something that involves helping others, whether that be a “guidance counselor at a high school or a basketball coach,” or serving in the military.
“If they’re serving their country, their country’s going to serve them,” he said.Read comments