Boot Camp During 9/11

Today, we remember the day that changed the nation forever. U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Patrick Sansevere and 1st Sgt. Randall Parkes talk about their experiences being in boot camp on September 11, 2001.

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(sigh) I’ll never forget being at recruit training when 9/11 occurred. We were all seated in a box inside that Thunder Dome. And that’s when the chaplain came out and delivered to us the events of that day. The first thing he said, was, you know, recruits, please understand this is going to affect most of you.

I was a recruit at MCRD San Diego. Our drill instructor told us to circle it up around him, and he took his cover off and started talking to us in his regular voice.

It was very ironic because we got to the Squaw Bay and everybody got on line, did what we typically do, and one of the drill instructors came out, calm, cool, collected, nothing that we’d seen like that in the past two months of recruit training, said recruits, go ahead, pull out your foot lockers, go ahead and take a seat, write letters home, and you can talk quietly amongst yourselves.

I remember looking around at the platoon and everyone was kind of looking around at each other, trying to figure out what was about to come next.

And we all thought this was a test. We thought, you know, they’re messing with us. Something’s gonna come from this.

And he told us that the United States was under attack on the east coast, and that we might wanna pay attention to what we were learning here today because we may need it again sometime in the near future. You could almost feel the breath taken out of the circle. We got no other information other than that. Later on that evening our company commander brought us all in and showed us video clippings on VHS tapes.

[Reporter] We understand that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. We don’t know anything more than that. We don’t know if it was a-

As he was delivering what happened that day, you could hear the sobs and some outright crying from some of the recruits, and when he asked who here has those family members that might work in those areas, I was taken aback by how many recruits actually raised their hand, including my own.

Our path that we had initially joined was gonna be very different. When I joined it was peacetime and then all of a sudden now we’re in wartime.

I’ll never forget making that phone call to my mother, the fear in her voice knowing of what the eventuality was gonna be for me, being a United States Marine and now being at a time of war. That’s, the shake in her voice is something that I’ll never forget. One of the first things I did upon arrival back home was go to this little place that I liked to go as a kid. It’s called the Eagle Rock Reservation. I’ll never forget driving up there and walking out to the pavilion that oversees the New York City skyline, and you look to the north of the city and you see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, and you can make out the New Yorker, and then you look to the south and it’s just barren. Just seeing the gravity of the situation that happened, that those two dominating towers with all those innocent lives that fell. It took me aback, and as the sun set behind me, I remember looking at the city, and as those searchlights went on and seemed to just light up the sky, it sold me that I would be in this for the duration. As long as the Marine Corps would have me, that I was in this until the end.

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