BALTIMORE — Many Maryland first responders and military personnel stopped whatever they were doing and took action on September 11, 2001.
Whether their mission was to head to New York City, the Pentagon or western Pennsylvania, they were ready to go.
September 11th not only saw an attack on the heart of New York City's Financial District but America's headquarters of defense, the Pentagon.
Maryland Air National Guard Lt. Colonel Joe Llewellyn said “very upsetting, it was very upsetting. A lot of things had to happen for that catastrophe to happen but everybody on our aircraft, and everybody that I work with at Martin State [Airport] and the Maryland Air National Guard, we’re ready.”
Right after the second plane hit the Twin Towers, Maryland Air National Lt. Colonel Llewellyn knew the country was now at war and he was ready to serve.
“I was in Desert Storm, Somalia. I’ve done a lot prior to this point, but some of my crew had not. So, may have been pretty new for most of them. We were loading up, putting our M-9s on, and we were putting bullets in. It was like we were in Afghanistan, but we were stepping out in our home base. Very surreal,” Llewellyn said.
The lieutenant's immediate mission was to fly down to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and transport medical and rescue personnel to New York City.
“We didn’t have any toiletries. We didn’t have any clothes. When we got down to the base, the base was closed. So, we struggled to get food, you know, kind of to get the normal stuff that we were doing, But what was great about the crew us, nobody cared. There were a lot of people in a lot worse situations than we were, so nobody complained or anything. We just got to figure this out,” Llewellyn said.
Also at the time, there also was a concern that more attacks were coming as crews listened to emergency radio.
“We’re listening to fighters, all the CAP [Civil Air Patrol] that was above us. There’s fighters talking to navy ships, talking to ATC [Air Traffic Control]. Just a lot of movement and protection going on. Here we are just our little C-130 going to Virginia, fitting into this mass organizational structure of protection that’s around the country at that point,” Llewellyn said.
It meant Lt. Colonel Llewellyn had to quickly switch from a peacetime mindset to a combat mindset.
“Our job was to fly that aircraft and not have any distractions. No matter what was going on in the world, or what was going on in New York. Our job was to get to Virginia and not make a mistake. Not make some silly mistake that could crash an aircraft,” Llewellyn said.
The crew flew a recovery team to New York. As they got close to the city, everyone on board could see the devastation from up in the air.
“Nobody was talking. It was very sad, somber, as we went up and it really hit home, okay the world’s going to change,” Llewellyn said.
One thing which changed for many Americans after September 11th was having a renewed sense of pride.
“People decided, I haven’t done it, I need to to do more. They joined the military, or they joined a police officer, or they joined the fire department, some first responders, become a nurse, that impacted…there was a lot of negative impact of 9/11, but I think the positive impact is it changed peoples lives to go serve,” Llewellyn said. “I don’t think I take the world, our country for granted. I may have at that point. I recognize the satisfaction and the rewarding feeling of serving, so all my kids, are serving in the military, and they realize the impact they can make."