Remembering Sept. 11

Published 11:27 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The U.S. will soon pay homage to the men and women who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 during terrorist attacks that rocked the nation to its core.

The events impacted Americans across the nation in many unique ways — including those who now live and work in Charlotte County.

“I was working in an advertising agency in Pennsylvania,” said Charlotte County resident Katy Clarke.

She said when she received the news, everyone stopped what they were doing and huddled around a radio listening in disbelief.

“The other plane went down in Pennsylvania not far from where we were and they just sent everyone home. Instead, we went next door to watch the TV in a bar. That was the first time we saw the visuals,” said Clarke.

Much like Clarke, the attacks hit close to home for Keysville native Ashley Stanley.

Stanley recalled being in the fourth grade at Eureka Elementary School when the event took place, hearing the bad news of a close family friend directly affected to the attacks. She said when she arrived home from school that day, her mom was visibly upset.

“She explained that hundreds of people had been killed in an attack, and my stepfather’s best friend Rodney (Wotton) was missing. He was never found, but parts of his clothing and his wedding band were returned to his wife weeks (or months) later,” Stanley said.

She said Wotton’s son was born just eight days after the attacks.

“My stepfather has gotten to meet his friend’s children, but there really was never true closure for Rodney’s extended network of family and friends,” Stanley said.

While several citizens were directly affected by the tragedy, Drakes Branch resident Garland Hamlett Jr. and former Randolph-Henry High School teacher Greg Eanes were recalled to active duty following the incidents of Sept. 11.

“I was recalled to active duty for ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in April 2002,” said Hamlett. “I went to Southwest Asia and Afghanistan, too.”

Hamlett said he was working night shift when he received a call from his wife about a packet that had been sitting on the table waiting for him. He told her to open it up and she informed him he had to report for active duty.

“I thought, ‘Wow,’” Hamlett said. “That was like the 27th of March. I had to be in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri the 13th of April. …”

After leaving home, Hamlett said he traveled a lot and stayed in a lot of hotels for his different assignments.

“We wore civilian clothes a lot due to the nature of what my team did,” said Hamlett. He said his team was responsible for anti-terrorism vulnerability assessments for the Department of Defense of U.S. military installations as well as Department of State in the Southwest Asian Theater of Operations.

Additionally, the team performed operations for other organizations that were supporting the war effort. 

“This was a good assignment and I traveled a lot and saw a lot of things,” said Hamlett.

He said he spent one year on the assignment. Hamlett currently serves as quartermaster of VFW Post 8902 in Keysville.

“I was teaching advanced placement U.S. history and political science at Randolph-Henry High School, so my students were mainly juniors and seniors,” said Eanes. “I was (in my) planning period so (I) had no students when I saw a student in the hallway who told me a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I thought it might be a Cessna and he said he thought it was bigger than that. I turned on the classroom TV and saw it as it was happening.”

He said that afternoon, he received a call from his Air Force Reserve commander letting him know they were “on alert.”

Over the next two days, he said his students focused on the event in class as he attempted to calm their fears.

“Eventually, I was contacted by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) because of my (Prisoner of War, POW, and Missing in Action, MIA) expertise and asked to serve as the deputy of chief of a newly created intelligence community (Central Intelligence Agency, DIA, etc.) POW/MIA Analytic Cell to which I arranged to report after first semester,” Eanes said.

He said telling his students and family he had to leave was tough.

To commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Woodmen Life Chapter 179 will hold a special ceremony Sept. 11 at the Wylliesburg Community Building at 6 p.m.