Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
Charles Robert Johnson is as good-natured as they come. The 68-year-old insurance agent and retired U.S. Air Force major was born in Brookville, Indiana, and today lives in Anderson, Indiana. He’s a devout Presbyterian – and a dedicated family man. He and his wife, Nancy, have one son, Kent, and three daughters, Susan Rose, Lauren Spence and Kristen Lloyd. Bob has traveled across the world. On Sept. 11, Bob and Nancy were in Las Vegas, Nevada. He wrote his essay Sept. 29.
This is a personal “look back” on the unparalleled atrocities that took place on September 11, 2001. The horrific events were truly reflective of the emergency number 911. I personally think of the innocent victims, like persons being shot in the back; the firemen, like supermen; the police, like infantrymen; the medics, like a scene from a hospital emergency room; the flight crews doing everything possible to protect and calm the passengers. I pray for each one of those persons daily. This is an attack on me and my family, as well as all other Americans and free people in the universe.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was awakened by a telephone call from a friend who was an attendee at the biannual meeting of the 340th Bomb Wing Reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada. When I turned on the hotel room television, I first heard the breaking news of terrorist attacks in two Boeing 767 and two Boeing 757 hijacked aircrafts on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. I had trouble believing what I was seeing and hearing. I could not leave the television. What followed was an outpouring of compassion and concern for all those involved in this great American tragedy.
I have a son who is an American Airlines pilot. Of course he was called immediately and found at home and all right. My oldest daughter and her husband are Air Force officers teaching flying at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. My youngest daughter’s husband is a C141 Air Force pilot at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. He is on alert and could be sent anyplace, anytime. My middle daughter lives in England and her husband works for Lockheed. The tragedy affects my life, but it could be devastating to the families of each of my children.
I think about the helpless and innocent victims and pray for each. I think of the rescuers and protectors and see a new spirit of unity in this great country. Yes, we are in pain, in shock and in mourning. We now go forward from this moment sobered and sad. But we will rise up in defense of all we cherish.
Abraham Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address: “Those dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.” This was true in 1863 and it is just as true in 2001.
When attacked by injustices, America pursues justice. We do not understand everything about the terrorists, but it is obvious the terrorists do not understand Americans, our resolve, what we are willing to do, or what they have started. They are about to find out.
There are many heroes coming out of this horrific atrocity and none can ever receive all the thanks and praise deserved. But the federal, state and local governments have all responded to the call that makes each citizen proud to be an American. I love this country and the people in it. God Bless America.