Seventeen years. Almost two decades later, but September 11th still feels like just yesterday to most Americans. Maureen Casey, IVMF chief operating officer, was in New York City on that day. “People chose to enlist because of the events that day,” she said. It’s because of those men and women willing to sacrifice for their country is what inspired her to give back. You can watch her story here.
It’s an honor to work with IVMF staff members who are veterans, military family members, civilians supporting veterans, caregivers, and more. We interviewed a few of our employees who have a wide array of experiences on 9/11. U.S. Marines Corps veteran Aixa Escobar, Onward to Opportunity program coordinator in San Diego, was born and raised in Weehawken, NJ, so the city was a big part of her life. “I woke up every morning looking over that beautiful New York skyline for years admiring the view and the shapes and sizes of the amazingly tall buildings, especially the Twin Towers,” she said.
On the day of September 11, Aixa was in the middle of a hands-on training exam in order to graduate from her Military Occupational Specialty School (MOS 2844) at Marine Corps Base Twenty-nine Palms in California. She was pulled out of the testing room and was told to call home. “During a brief conversation with my mother, she was crying and struggling to let the words out ‘it’s going to be ok, and dad is safe and already on the way home, I love you.’ It was then; I knew my decision to enlist in the United States Marine Corps just 7 months prior was solidified. As hundreds of Marines exited the company training classrooms, we poured into a large group huddle and were given a speech of a lifetime regarding what was in the near future.”
In 2004, Aixa volunteered to deploy with Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) as part of a 28-person detachment from 2D Marine Division, Headquarters Battalion, Communication Company in Camp Lejeune, NC in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom – Fallujah, Iraq. She also deployed to Ramadi, Iraq for a year in 2005. She went on to serve over 10 years on active duty.
Others veterans felt anxious when they did not get to take part in the immediate response to 9/11, like U.S. Navy veteran John “Gucci” Malfitano, Onward to Opportunity program manager at Hampton Roads. Gucci had just finished his duty as a department head in a Navy E-2C Hawkeye squadron in the summer of 2000, which included an operational deployment on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). He reported to Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. The morning of 9/11, he was leaving his military housing for class when he learned of the terrorist attacks.
“As with most Americans, the events of 9/11 remain vivid in my mind … I remember the intense frustration I felt that I had to sit idly by watching the news, and couldn’t be part of the fight as America prepared its military response,” Gucci said. “It would be two years before I got in the cockpit again, and embarked in USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.”
Vincent DelSignore, AmericaServes program manager in NYC, remembers the attacks and the impact it had on the community of the Big Apple. Vincent said his personal favorite of the nicknames for NYC has been the “Center of the Universe.” He adds, “It reflects the clout of the City’s businesses and institutions along with the diversity of those that call it home (some 176 languages are spoken in New York’s public-school system). People from all over the world are drawn to New York City where they not only co-exist but also thrive because of one another, making it truly one of the world’s great cultural hubs.”
The Center of the Universe quickly had a new significance, ultimately making it the center of the news on September 11. Vincent said even in tragedy, he remembers NYC pulling together as it always had. He noticed this specifically with the veterans and service members he met because of his career in the City.
“From Alabama to Maine and Long Island to Long Beach, the events of September 11th drew these individuals together to serve our country,” he said. “Some of their backgrounds couldn’t have been more different, but much like New Yorkers, they clearly thrived together under their shared purpose and duty.”
We all have different memories from this day, but one thing we have in common is we will never forget the sacrifices made and the lives lost. Take a moment to honor those who did not make it home that day. “Let us never forget the sacrifices of all. We will never forget.” – Aixa.