Florida Tech President Bob King, who was working in Albany, New York, on Sept. 11, 2001, headed to Manhattan after the attacks on the World Trade Center. There, he saw something he had never seen before: armed soldiers patrolling the streets of an American city.
“It was quite stunning,” King recalled in remarks delivered Friday morning at Florida Tech’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony organized by SFC Michael Johnson and student members of the university’s Panther Battalion ROTC.
But the horrifying events of that day, what King called the “chaos, crisis and catastrophe,” distilled something for him, something positive: a more unified America.
“What I saw was a coming together of people across this country in response. It didn’t matter what color they were, didn’t matter that their station in life was, didn’t matter what political party they supported,” King said. “People understood that our democracy had been attacked in a way only done once before but many thousands of miles away, at Pearl Harbor.”
The country’s notion of security was punctured, King continued, but that breech inspired many to join the armed forces and find ways to protect the United States.
“So what each of you have committed yourselves to do by participating in ROTC and serving when you graduate is an expression of how important you feel this day is, this moment is, and what it presents to you individually and to our country,” King told the assembled cadets. “As awful as this day was, it has created, I hope, a new appreciation for how important it is to protect that which we have here. You can only do that with people like each of you, willing to stand up and serve and protect this most precious gift of this remarkable country.”
Cadets Gus Guerrero, Taylor English and Julia Lonks, who spoke, and cadet Jared Blanco, who emceed the event, weren’t born when the attacks occurred. But they shared how that dark day still made an impact.
Guerrero said his mother was pregnant with him on Sept. 11, 2001. After dropping his younger sister off at kindergarten in Hoboken, New Jersey, near their home, she saw the plane hit the World Trade Center’s south tower.
“So while I may not have been alive, I was there,” Guerrero said. “I was there as Americans united to help.”
That unity, and the notion of protecting the U.S. from future incidents, were the reasons he wanted to be an officer in the U.S. Army.
“To lead Americans…to make sure another 9/11 never happens again, to be a leader of heroes that are willing to risk everything on this country’s defense to prevent the deaths of innocent people to the powers of evil, and more personally, to make sure my mother doesn’t have to witness anything as horrible as this nightmare ever again.”