I was recently in New York City on a survey of a 36′ Hallberg-Rassy sailboat. The sea trial was on the Hudson River. Although it was a great survey, and the sailboat sailed great, I was really captured by the view of the new World Trade Center that was being built. Some refer to the new tower as the Freedom Tower but is officially being called “World Trade Center 1” or “1 WTC.” When I looked up in the sky and saw this new tower it instantly took me back to September 11, 2001 and made me remember how much that day changed my life and the lives of so many.
I was enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard on the day of 9/11. I was serving at Station Fort Pierce, Florida. I was later transferred to Group Miami and then to MSO Port Everglades, Florida where I served as a Boarding Officer. We were boarding every vessel that came into the inlet.
I can remember President George Bush coming on television telling the world the the U.S. Coast Guard was head of Homeland Security shortly after the attacks. Trust me, that was the first time that most of us in the Coast Guard had heard that as well. It was a time that most of us in the miltary thought that more attacks were coming here in the United States. Days later we discovered that several of the 9/11 airline highjackers had been living between Broward and Indian River counties in Florida. I was living right between the two counties in Palm Beach. My unit in Fort Pierce, Florida was less than 20 miles from one of the homes the terrorists had been living in that was found to be abandoned less than two days later after the attacks. I thought at the time it was the beginning of World War III and I was ready for it. I thought it may become much worse in those few days and weeks that followed September 11, 2001, but it did not get as bad as I thought it would which I was thankful for. Some things did change. Policies in the State Department, in the Military, and in the airports all became more tightened. The Partiot Act was upheld and passed through Congress in October, 2001. Many people lost loved ones both in the towers and overseas in the coming conflict that has continued for the past 11 years in a war that seems like will never end.
Immediately after the 9/11 terrorists attacks the U.S. Coast Guard was overwhelmed with the demands from the U.S. Governement. We were boarding vessels day and night and documenting everything we did. I was not home hardly at all because we were so busy. I had a little baby daughter at the time that I did not spend much time with. This took a huge toll on me personally. Other personal changes were going on in my life that seemed almost as bad as the state of the world affiars at the time. I knew friends in other branches of the military going overseas to war. Some did not make it. Some came back changed and scarred. I was still enlisted while applying to police academy, not sure of what I was going to do with the rest of my life. After 9/11 I really wanted to do something that I felt could more directly help people. I was later accepted and went on to become a police officer for a few years after my active duty enlistment was over in August, 2002.
Since then I have become I marine surveyor, am now self employed, and am home much more than I ever was before. Life has since changed for the better. I have traveled to many places in the world surveying or delivering boats. I have met and experieinced many different cultures, people, and have established friendships in some of these countries. I have more things I want to do to build this company. Looking at that new huge tower being constructed in that sky however brought me back 11 years and I instantly remembered that day that those planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers. I thought about the thousands of people that have died in those attacks. The 343 New York City Firefighters, the 60 New York City Police and Port Authority Officers, the estimated 2,700 men and women that died in the towers (not to mention at the Pentagon and on board flights, 11, 175, 77, and 93), the 2,100 soilders that have died in combat overseas since Operation Enduring Freedom started in October, 2001, and the untold thousands of innocent women, men, and children that have died overseas as a result of the war on terror. Although I was working on a survey of this sailboat on the day I was looking at the new tower, all of this was on my mind the entire day while sailing on the Hudson River. It was something I was indirectly a part of. Something that I was proud to be a part of while enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and something I hope will someday come to an end and the world will know at least for a little while what it is like to have peace.
This blog is really not about marine surveying as most of my articles are. I rather wanted to take this time to express my thoughts on this after seeing the World Trade Center for myself and the impact that it made and how it filled my thoughts. I hope the younger generations know a better world but do not take their lives or their freedoms for granted. For me I have more questions than answers about 9/11. I will keep all of that to myself as I feel we all will never really know all the details on the who or why this great tragedy happened. I salute all of those heros who have died since the day of the attacks and the ones that continue to fight this war.
Next time I will try to write something more nautical. Until I write again, be well and fair winds.
Capt. John Banister
Suenos Azules Marine Surveying and Consulting
4521 PGA Boulevard, Suite 461
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33418