The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Zachary Hubbard

September 8, 2011

ZACHARY HUBBARD | 9/11 anniversary stirs memories of fateful day

Morning routines disrupted by terror-filled hours

— I retired from the U.S. Army in August 2001 and took a job with a small software company in Hampton, Va.

It never occurred to me that my scheduled drive from Hampton to Arlington, Va., on Sept. 11, might be of interest to anyone.

This changed when a group of mostly Saudi Arabian, Islamic extremists hijacked commercial airliners and used them as weapons to attack our country.

On that fateful morning, I had been scheduled to attend a meeting at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in downtown Arlington, only a few minutes from the Pentagon.

My occasional drives from my home in Yorktown, Va., to Arlington normally took about three hours.

It was during the drive on that fateful morning that I first heard on the radio that an airplane had crashed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.  

This was tragic news for sure, but not particularly alarming at that point.

I stopped at my company’s branch office in Alexandria to make some photocopies needed for the meeting.

Shortly after I arrived, the receptionist informed me another plane had struck the second tower of the World Trade Center and yet another had struck the Pentagon.

Stepping outside to the sidewalk in front of our office building I could see smoke billowing up over the Pentagon, about five miles away.

I knew that several of my friends worked in that massive building and I worried about each of them.

Only several days later would I finally learn that all were unharmed.  

Upon seeing the smoke rising over the Pentagon, I realized my scheduled meeting at DARPA would never happen on that particular day.

Shortly thereafter, I got in my car and drove back to my office in Hampton.

I later learned I had chosen wisely.

Many people working and/or living inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway were trapped in massive traffic jams that lasted for hours as panic set in and many people attempted to flee the national capital region.  

My normal route from Alexandria to Arlington would have taken me past the Pentagon near the very spot where the aircraft struck.

It took some time for reality to sink in, but I soon realized our country was under attack; we were at war, and it was taking place on American soil.

My 26 years of military experience had never prepared me for this.

I, like so many others, had been taken totally by surprise.

During the weeks following 9/11, I fully expected to be recalled to active duty in the Army, but it never happened.

Two of my Army buddies who were scheduled to retire in October and November were both retained on active duty through the Department of Defense’s “stop loss” policy implemented after the attacks.

They were not allowed to retire until the fall of 2003.

In a classic example of the “six degrees of separation,” it turned out that the pilot of the airliner that struck the Pentagon was a friend of the executive vice president of the company I worked for in Hampton.

Zachary P. Hubbard is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and owner/senior consultant with Laurel Breeze Consulting, Johnstown. He serves on The Tribune-Dem-ocrat’s reader advisory committee.

 

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Zachary Hubbard
  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | Some actions defy explanation

    Like a poorly delivered joke that leaves a comedian’s audience waiting for the punch line, there are scores of factors about American society that make me moan, “I don’t get it.” Sometimes it seems as if we Americans are losing our minds. I see evidence of this every day.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | Obama should study Powell Doctrine

    During his tenure as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell elaborated on eight questions he believed should be considered before committing U.S. military forces to war.

    June 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | EPA taking jobs, hope from coal country

    I just returned from a visit to my birthplace in Harlan County, Kentucky, which lies in the southeast corner of the state.

    May 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | Random thoughts on politics, our money

    Lately, the news has contained more baloney than usual. Let’s start with Ukraine, where I left off last time.

    April 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | Obama's diplomacy pickle: Crimea crisis

    With all of the political pundits piling on about the current crisis in the Ukraine, I’m puzzled that I have yet to hear anyone seriously discuss Russia’s Near Abroad policy.

    March 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard | Federal contracting system broken, out of control

    I’ve been feeling surly. It started several weeks ago when Congress passed legislation making large cuts in the annual cost-of-living pay adjustments for active and retired military personnel.

    February 24, 2014

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | It was so cold ...

    Late last night I got a phone call from a friend stationed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. He told me that since early morning, the snow had been coming down steadily.

    January 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | Throwing veterans under the bus

    Americans love honoring their military veterans. They cheer loudly for troops returning home from combat zones in far away countries; they hold veterans’ parades and decorate veterans’ graves; and they walk up to veterans and thank them for their service. Unfortunately, most of the honors end there.

    December 18, 2013 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | Republican Party is in need of a facelift

    Thirty-nine House Democrats facing re-election in 2014 recently jumped ship and sided with Republicans to vote for changes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

    November 25, 2013 1 Photo

  • Zachary Hubbard NEW Zachary Hubbard | For military brats, Germany was a magical place

    A long chapter in U.S. history is closing. The once behemoth U.S. military forces in Germany are slowly withdrawing. In April, the last Army tanks were shipped home, marking the first time in almost
    70 years there were no American tanks on German soil. While most Americans would consider this a political development, for some of us, it’s quite personal.

    November 5, 2013 1 Photo

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads