BALTIMORE — September 11, 2001, Maryland Army National Guard Sgt. Major Aarion Franklin was working as a transportation planner for the Maryland Aviation Administration.
Like almost every other American, the sergeant was watching the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
“Thought it was an accident. It wasn’t until the second plane hit that we kind of got an idea that this wasn’t an accident and things were likely about to change,” Franklin said.
Sgt. Major Franklin soon got a call from the Maryland National Guard with instructions to grab his equipment and report to the Armory.
“And start doing all of those pre-checks to make sure everybody has everything they need. Then there was just anticipation of waiting to hear ‘where are we going next, is it to New York, is it to D.C.?’,” Franklin said.
The answer: the Pentagon.
The 290th MP Company of the 115th Military Police Battalion was on its way. Their mission was to protect the Pentagon and the first responders or service still inside.
“You saw it on the news but to be there, to see it first hand, to smell it first hand. To see the chaos of people kind of running around. It cemented that event in my mind, and it made it real,” Franklin said.
Members of the Maryland National Guard bravely approached the burning building, their only fear was a fear of the unknown.
“We saw the media reports and we were able to see the building collapse. We were able to see damage to the Pentagon but not really know the extent. So, obviously there’s the fear of the unknown, but again, as the mission started to develop and we actually got there, that fear kind of goes away. You really just want to know what you can do to help,” Franklin said.
The tragedies of September 11th often have replayed in Sgt. Major Franklin's mind throughout the last 20 years.
“I can remember, I think three days afterward, there was a general who came up, and he just kind of wept for a few moments. He pointed at his office and said ‘that’s where I would have been if I wasn’t in a meeting.’ He talked about losing his staff, he just kind of stood there quietly by himself, and then he walked away. Moments like that really resonate,” Franklin said.
Seeing the horrors of 9/11 up close also resonated with the sergeant major who is no longer the same person he was on September 11, 2001.
“It definitely made me less stressed about major things. If that makes sense. Very much more relaxed. Realizing that life’s short, and that I try to live every day to its fullest. It’s really inspired me to be a better person,” Franklin said.