It's kind of a tradition of mine to post this every year on this day. Please follow up with your own stories!
I was 23 years old. I was a Naval supply petty officer at an intelligence base in close proximity to Washington D.C. I was going about my usual day picking up deliveries and bringing them to the ops floor. That particular day I had a delivery of about a dozen chairs. I called the officer on duty to have him send out some sailors to help me.
I remember being angry because no one would pick up the phone and when I went inside it looked like everyone was watching a movie instead of working which I found very odd. After yelling at a couple of subordinates for watching the television instead of working they finally communicated to me that it was real and I started watching just as the second plane hit the WTC. Shortly after we heard about the Pentagon.
Being in the small Navy intelligence community, every single one of us knew people there. After flight 93 went down and planes were ordered to land, there was one plane left in the air and it just happened to be circling in our air space. It turns out it was waiting to land, but we didn't know that.
The ops floor was crazy. Phones were ringing and people were running around. Those chairs were very quickly dealt with because we couldn't have "suspicious packages" at the ops floor without securing them. Those of us that had day jobs and not mission essential positions just sat in the maintenance wing glued to the television.
At first they wouldn't let any of us leave and then they evacuated us very quickly. The mission essential personnel had to stay of course. When I got into my car one of the last sights I saw was that last plane in the air over our base. I was terrified, shocked, numb. You name it. We all felt that. I went home and didn't go back to work for 3 days which is unheard of in the Navy. I sat on my couch flipping between news channels for 72 hours. I didn't really eat or sleep. I put an American flag in my window. I cried. I called my family. When I did return to work. The base had changed drastically. There were dozens of new security measures taken. I won't list them here, but it was like being in a war zone.
The public response was amazing. I will always remember a flag in every car window. Flags and signs hanging over every single overpass in Washington D.C. Any time that I was in uniform around civilians at least one person would thank me, give me a hug and a wink, or squeeze my hand. The love and support was 100%...without exception. It made me prouder than I've ever been in my life. Proud to be serving in the Navy. Proud to be an American. Proud to be a human being. That horrible day showed us what is really in our hearts: love and compassion for our fellow human beings. Lets not forget the solidarity and American pride that we all felt at that time. No matter what has come about who did what and what could be prevented, we united and hopefully made those we lost proud of our conduct. I salute my fellow Americans. God bless you.