Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 stood in formation alongside members of all services on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; 12 years to the day.
The remembrance began with morning colors at which time the American flag was flown at half-mast as a symbol of mourning.
Following an invocation by Cmdr. John J. Gayton, command chaplain of Camp Lemonnier, U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Adam Newsum took the podium and articulated his personal experience only a few blocks from the World Trade Center towers, where he was working as a recruiter the morning of the attacks.
“The scene was apocalyptic,” said the New York native. “Walking around, I noticed one of the building remains. Someone had scrawled in them, the words Semper Fidelis.”
Seeing the Marine Corps motto, which is Latin for “Always Faithful,” Newsum became immediately hopeful and confident that “we can get past this.”
Chief (select) Builder Gabriel C. Martinez read a quote from former President George W. Bush who said, “These acts, shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
Martinez was one of four Navy chief petty officer selectees to take a turn at the podium. Other speakers included Chief (select) Culinary Specialist Corey D. Montgomery, Chief (select) Quartermaster Amanda L. Jenkins, and Chief (select) Explosive Ordnance Technician Thomas K. Langdon.
The event concluded with a benediction by Lt. Cmdr. Washington Johnson II, deputy chaplain of Camp Lemonnier.
Further remembrance was acknowledged by minute long observances of the four attacks that took place at the minute each happened.
Throughout the remainder of the day, Seabees could be heard telling one another where they were when they became aware of the attacks. Many were school aged children at the time.
“I was in middle school in Rochester, N.Y.,” said Construction Electrician 2nd Class Kevin R. Foss. “I walked into the classroom and the teacher had the T.V. on when I saw the second plane hit.”
Steelworker 1st Class Dane C. Hendricks was at a firing range in Mississippi when a ceasefire was abruptly called. “They had all of us gather around by the bleachers and told us that terrorists had flown a plane into one of the twin towers,” recalled Hendricks. “Nobody made a peep the entire bus ride home.”
Ensign Tyrrell T. Foster was in 6th grade in Kozad, Neb. “Someone asked my science teacher, Mr. Poore, what we were going to do for class. He said, ‘we’re going to watch the news because this is more important than anything else we could do today.'”
“I thought it was a movie when I first turned the T.V. on,” said Builder 1st Class Steven A. Leguillow, who was actually a Private First Class in the Army at the time. “I got a call from my Det. Sergeant telling me, ‘pack everything green that you own because we don’t know when we’re coming home.'”
The fourth plane hit close to home for Lt. j.g. Robert E. Simmons. “It was hard to believe. It was like it was happening in my own backyard,” said Simmons of the plane that crashed about 20 miles from his Somerset County, Pa. home.
The Naval Construction Force is a vital component of the U.S. Maritime Strategy. They provide deployable battalions capable of providing contingency construction, disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance, and combat operations support.
With its homeport in Gulfport, Miss., NMCB-11 is a Seabee battalion currently deployed to multiple locations in support of AFRICOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, and PACOM areas of responsibility.
NMCB-11’s Detail Horn of Africa is a Combined Joint Task Force-HOA unit whose mission includes stabilizing and strengthening security in East Africa through military-to-military engagements with partner nations.
Press Release, September 12, 2013; Image: US Navy