My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever - We Are The Mighty

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever

By A’sha Roe

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I drove to work at a hotel in Boise, Idaho.

As I exited my car I briefly caught something on the radio about a plane flying into a tower. I assumed it was a small plane, a two-seater, that had crashed. Before settling at my desk I did my usual walk to grab a cup of coffee and noticed all the guests in the lobby, usually quietly enjoying breakfast, were instead gathered around the television in the corner.

Wondering what was happening, I went over to the television just as live feed showed the second plane hitting the tower. Aghast and confused, I exclaimed, “Is that what happened?” as other people gasped and cried out and explained that no, this was a live feed and that was a second plane.

I was sitting at my desk when someone burst into the office claiming, “They just bombed the Pentagon.” We were all shocked and scared and went out to the televisions again. The rest of the day was a blur. I remember going home and sitting, glued to my television. One of the stories that still sticks out to this day was a family trying to find their husband and father who had worked in one of the towers. The camera continued to follow the family from location to location. At long last, they found him, he had escaped from the towers before they fell. I sat sobbing along with the family as they embraced.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Photo courtesy of A’sha Roe

My story is not special; I was in a small town, at my normal job, watching from the sidelines at the world I knew changed forever. But I still have all the newspapers from the day after in a cedar chest.

A’sha Roe serves as We Are The Mighty’s Director of Finance


Why one general takes the blame for the South losing at Gettysburg

General James Longstreet was one of the Confederate army’s most trusted and capable officers. After the Battle of Gettysburg and long after the end of the Civil War, Longstreet takes much of the blame for the southern loss at the battle – and sometimes for the loss of Civil War itself.

For many people who blame Longstreet for the loss (or show outright disdain for the man), it all goes back to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg — specifically, Pickett’s Charge. It was an attack Longstreet didn’t order or want, but he still takes the blame for its failure. 

When Gen. Robert E. Lee gave the order, Longstreet openly voiced his disagreement with it. He relayed the order to Pickett anyway, but was very unhappy to do so. Longstreet didn’t think the Confederate army should have been so far north at all. He takes a lot of blame for the failure at Gettysburg overall, because it’s said he delayed his actions during the battle. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
U.S. Army

Whether it was a good idea or not, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg saw 12,500 Confederate soldiers charged an entrenched and fortified Union position protecting Cemetery Hill. The hill commanded a network of roads essential to command of the battlefield. The Union commanders predicted the attack and the chargers took at least 50% casualties.

The Army of Northern Virginia never recovered from the failed assault and the Confederate Army never recovered from the loss of at Gettysburg. It was the turning point in a battle that was the turning point of the Civil War. Longstreet saw it all coming and tried to talk Lee out of it, but to no avail. 

No matter what the armchair historians may say, Lee is actually responsible for the failed attack, and he knew it right away. He was so personally devastated by the losses incurred in Pickett’s Charge that he offered his resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who turned it down). 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
In other words, Lee wasn’t up on his high horse… I’ll see myself out (Wikimedia Commons)

Longstreet takes a lot of the blame for Pickett’s Charge (and the defeat at Gettysburg) because he, for the most part, didn’t think the Confederate Army should have been there after the first day of fighting. 

It’s said that Longstreet dithered and delayed so much and so often throughout the battle that it was almost considered intentional sabotage. When it came to Pickett’s Charge, he openly disagreed with Lee, which earned him a transfer West after the Confederate retreat from Pennsylvania. 

Gen. Longstreet believed that it was more important to defeat Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee and less important to invade the North. He felt so strongly that the disagreement went all the way up to Jefferson Davis. Lee argued that moving troops to the West would force his army to stay closer to Richmond. Davis sided with Lee, so the perception was that Longstreet’s disagreement and delays during the battle were mostly sour grapes. 

And since the battle – and Pickett’s Charge – was so pivotal to the Confederacy’s survival, the idea that Longstreet didn’t do his best is why he takes much of the blame.

Longstreet also takes a lot of blame in the eyes of Southern historians, especially propagators of the “Lost Cause” mythology, because of his postwar activities. Longstreet actively sought to rejoin the Union and earn a pardon. He eventually ended up working in a presidential administration – under President Ulysses S. Grant. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Longstreet after the war (Library of Congress)

As for who is actually responsible for the failure of Pickett’s Charge, when asked after the war, Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett went on the record as saying, “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”


The Capitol Building might be getting its own quick-reaction force

The National Guard doesn’t have the funding for it, but lawmakers on Capitol Hill are thinking about creating a military unit that would only respond to needs from the federal building, according to the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).

After the fallout from the January 6, 2021, riot that saw much of the Capitol Building wrecked and forced lawmakers to flee the chamber, Congress has been looking for a means to prevent the possibility of such a riot happening again. 

The legislative body would also like to have a force it can call on to ensure that such a riot, once out of hand, would never again be able to breach the building and destroy so much of the building’s offices and files.

It’s an issue so important to Congress that the Senate was holding hearings to discuss passing a reconciled version of the one passed by the House of Representatives in May 2021. A sum of $200 million would be set aside for a standing force inside of D.C. that can be called on by the District of Columbia National Guard.

In June 2021, the commander of the National Guard, Gen. Daniel Hokanson told a panel of senators that a quick reaction force (QRF) wasn’t really in the scope of the National Guard mission.

“Many of these [duties] are actually a law enforcement mission set,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We’re not a SWAT team. We’re not law enforcement. We’re soldiers and airmen trained and equipped to fight our nation’s wars.”

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Hokanson (U.S. Army)

The Guard was deployed to the Capitol Hill area for four months after rioters broke into Congress in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election. The initial response was handled by local law enforcement and the Capitol Police – but the external response was so bungled that some began to suspect collusion between the rioters and the police officers. 

Gen. Hokanson wanted lawmakers to know that the National Guard, even in the District of Columbia, can’t be the QRF they want, needed or not. He argued that the Guard doesn’t really have the resources, and he was on Capitol Hill to get lawmakers to pay for the four-month deployment of Guard troops to the Capitol.

It cost the Guard more than $520 million to deploy during that time. To redeploy would require the Guard to get 24 hours notice before being ready to act. Whereas law enforcement is on the job when it’s time to go, members of the National Guard have to leave their civilian jobs, grab their gear and then meet at the armory to prepare.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
(U.S. National Guard photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones)

Only when a matter exceeds law enforcement capabilities is the National Guard called in to support the effort. Some senators instead support creating that QRF unit inside an existing federal agency, which they believe would be much more cost-effective.

As for the National Guard, funding is a big deal. The Guard used its maintenance and operational funds to pay for its four-month deployment to Washington, and so the lack of additional funds from Congress is beginning to affect its capabilities. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, Army Chief of Staff were also concerned with the Guard’s lack of funding. The three defense officials told lawmakers that the readiness of the National Guard would be affected if it can’t get reimbursed for its deployment. 


Abraham Lincoln is the only U.S. President to hold a patent

The President of the United States is quite a title to hold. Great Americans have held the office since George Washington founded the nation. To stand out in this lineage of leaders is no small task. For all the history that Abraham Lincoln made as president, incredibly, he stands out as the only one to hold a patent.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Lincoln and his friend pilot a flatboat down the Mississippi to New Orleans

Lincoln grew up on the American frontier. He learned flatboat river navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers as a teenager. At the age of 19, he made a flatboat journey all the way down to New Orleans.

A few years later, Lincoln made a second trip down to New Orleans. However, before Lincoln reached the Illinois River, the boat became stuck on a milldam at New Salem. Stranded on the Sangamon River, the boat started to take on water. Lincoln acquired an auger from New Salem and hurriedly returned to the boat. He unloaded part of the cargo to the right of the boat and proceeded to drill a hole in the bow. After enough water ran out, he plugged the hole and was able to free the boat and continue to New Orleans.

After completing the voyage to New Orleans, Lincoln returned to the small prairie town of New Salem. Interestingly, it was there that he met his first love and fiancé, Ann Rutledge. Lincoln also began his political career in New Salem.

In 1848, Lincoln served in the House of Representatives. On his way back to Illinois, the boat he was on beached on a sandbar. The captain ordered all hands to collect planks, barrels, and boxes, and force them under the sides of the boat. The items buoyed the vessel and eventually freed it from the sandbar. Along with his experience on the Sangamon, this event inspired Lincoln to invent something to help stranded boats.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Lincoln’s patent drawings (Public Domain)

Lincoln had a mechanically curious mind. While traveling the circuit as a lawyer, he would often find farm machines and tools to examine. He was fascinated with the intricacies and interactions of machinery. Combining this mechanical interest with his riverboat experiences, Lincoln set to work inventing a device to free beached vessels.

Lincoln called his invention “An Improved Method of Buoying Vessels Over Shoals.” His idea involved waterproof fabric bladders that could be inflated to, well, buoy stuck vessels over shoals. Accordion-shaped air chambers on the side of the boat would inflate the bladders when necessary. He built a scale model of a ship equipped with his invention to validate its design. However, it was never fitted to an actual ship.

On May 22, 1849, Congressman Abraham Lincoln became the holder of U.S. Patent No. 6,469. He remains the only U.S. President to be a patentee.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
The Smithsonian replica of Lincoln’s patent model. The Smithsonian uses this model for display to preserve to fragile original. (Smithsonian Institute)

Feature image: Lincoln circa 1846 (Library of Congress)


A WWI Hungarian soldier turned out to be a serial killer

Imagine being a landlord, finding out your tenant was missing, and then walking into a house of horrors when cleaning out their space. That’s exactly what happened during World War I in Hungary. An unsuspecting landlord found out his tenant had gone MIA. Rather than finding normal personal belongings within the home, he found preserved bodies, all women who had been reported missing in months before. 

At least, that’s one way the story is told. 

Another is that the enlisted soldier, Bela Kiss, was known for stockpiling gasoline in preparation for war rations. While he was away at war, his gasoline was needed and confiscated by said landlord. However, rather than fuel, they found foul odors and blood-less bodies — essentially pickled human remains. In all, 24 metal drums had been sealed in a vat of alcohol. Each victim was strangled, had puncture marks on their necks and were void of blood, leaving authorities to believe he was an aspiring vampire. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Kiss’ drums, where the landlord found the remains. (Wikimedia Commons)

The victims were almost all female, with one male body. 

Kiss was conscripted (drafted) to the Hungarian Army in 1914. While away, he left his home in the care of his cleaning lady; he also willed her his money. Unfortunately for her, this led police to believe she was involved. However, she showed them around the property, including a locked room that she wasn’t allowed to enter. Inside the room were countless books on strangulation and poisoning. There were also letters from more than 74 women that Kiss was manipulating. Long before “catfishing” was a term, he would put out false marriage requests in the paper and try and woo the women out of their money through letters. He also pretended to be a matrimonial agent or a fortune teller to lure a larger audience of women. He stole money from as many women as he could, but only invited those without family ties to visit. Those women would unfortunately become his victims. Many of the women were reported missing but ultimately never found, until Kiss’s drums were opened.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Kiss’ home (left) (Wikimedia Commons)

Upon the discovery of Kiss’s killings, the Army sent for his arrest. However, he was able to evade arrest for several years. It’s thought that he swapped identities with a deceased soldier. Several sightings were reported in the next several years, but ultimately, he was never caught. 

The last official sighting of Kiss took place in 1932 in New York City, when he was spotted by homicide detective, Henry Oswald. Oswald saw Kiss coming off of a Subway train, but was unable to reach him. They later found that he was working as a janitor, but when they had gone to search for him, he was gone. 

His fate still remains unknown to this day. 

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons


Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

“No one left behind” is a phrase inextricably linked with our military culture. The concept is a pillar that supports the platform of what it means to serve, analogous to “defending those who can’t defend themselves” and “protecting our freedom.” Like all military axioms, no one left behind means many different things, depending on the service member or veteran you ask. 

The most prominent examples of this are in the Medal of Honor citations of U.S. troops braving enemy fire to bring a wounded comrade to safety without regard for their own well-being. Not as thoroughly illustrated in Hollywood, however, are veterans who are determined to bring home the remains of U.S. troops lost in foreign wars, or those working to help other veterans with challenges in employment, physical disabilities, and mental health. All of it can be traced back to “no one left behind.”

The time has come for the U.S. to embody this core principle yet again.

Close to 18,000 Afghans (and their 53,000 family members) who provided assistance to the U.S. as interpreters, security guards, contractors and more, now face a future that is uncertain at best. These people who fought alongside our men and women in uniform are running out of time, as the U.S. Department of Defense now estimates its withdrawal from Afghanistan is 95% complete as of July 12th.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Photo courtesy of DVIDS

One man with a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject is General Joseph Votel (Retired). The former commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM) was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11, conducting a rare combat jump with his fellow Rangers on Objective Rhino, near Kandahar.

“I was in the first wave of troops, October of 2001,” General Votel told Sandboxx News. “And I think between 2001 and 2019 — when I actually left service — I’d been to Afghanistan for some part of every year, sometimes just a few days and sometimes for a whole year.”

General Votel’s extensive time spent in theater, dating back to the very beginning of U.S. operations there, makes him as qualified as any expert one could find on the war-torn country and its looming humanitarian crisis.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Then- deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-82, Gen. Votel cuts a ribbon at the groundbreaking of a new public works building in Panjsher Province March 27, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Dinneen)

These thousands of Afghans who aided or sympathized with U.S.-led forces in the 20-year war against the Taliban have been imperiled as the American presence dwindles. The slow trickle of departing troops turned to a hasty exit at the beginning of May, and the U.S. has assumed a much more defensive posture. As a result, the Taliban has seized territory at an alarming rate and now control over half of the districts in the country. There was already plenty of support for their strict interpretation (and enforcement) of Sharia in more conservative, rural areas, but they are now are closing in on major cities that have been more secular and progressive in terms of things like women’s rights.

“I’ve invested a lot of time in this like many have, and I feel like I got to know the Afghan people. I certainly got to know their story quite well. I feel sad that we are not leaving them in a better position,” General Votel said.

The Taliban are determined to improve their image with the U.S. government and avoid any entanglements that would prolong the withdrawal. Multiple Taliban spokesmen have been dismissive of human rights abuses in territories they’ve re-captured, and recently stated that Afghans who worked with the U.S. will not be harmed if they “show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Taliban religious police beating an Afghan woman for removing her burka in public, in August of 2001, shortly before the Taliban was removed from power (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan/ Wikimedia Commons)

Many Afghans put little stock in the statement from Taliban leadership, and have no intention to stay and find out if they keep their word. There are countless stories of retaliation against these Afghans that the Taliban has past referred to as “traitors” and “slaves.” Whether all of the more recent violence has been sanctioned by the Taliban or not, those who fear further reprisals without the U.S. presence do so justifiably.

“These interpreters and others that helped us, they did this at their own personal risk. We recognized this and we set up programs. The Special Immigrant Visa program, SIV program… is specifically designed to give those who’ve spent time with us a leg up in the immigration process — to come to the United States and have an opportunity to become a citizen, because we knew that their jobs — what they were doing for us –would put them in danger down the line.”

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
This graphic, daunting enough, illustrates what is probably best-case scenario for SIV applicants in light of the backlog (Government Accountability Office/ State Department)

The sheer volume of SIV applications coupled with staffing issues and lack of a central database has created an enormous backlog at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that could take several years to sort through. An outbreak of COVID-19 killed one and infected 114 staffers at the embassy last month, grinding operations to a halt. Further complicating the issue, many SIV applicants do not live in Kabul. Transportation and communication would already be an issue, particularly in rural areas, even without Taliban militants’ ever-increasing presence.

“It’s really important, I think, for us to follow up on that, follow through on our promises and, and do the right thing for these people. It’s literally a life and death situation for many of them,” General Votel explained.

Operation Allies Refuge, announced earlier this week, will begin the massive task of evacuating all SIV applicants out of Afghanistan by the end of the month. When asked at Wednesday’s briefing, DOD Press Secretary John Kirby was non-committal about potential locations for the soon-to-be displaced Afghans while their pending immigration is processed. There is precedent, and therefore hope, for such a large undertaking. CONUS installations have not been ruled out, such as in 1999 when the U.S. airlifted 20,000 Kosovo refugees to Fort Dix, NJ. International U.S. assets like Guam seem more likely, as that is where 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to in 1975.

Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, General Votel has a personal connection to that operation as well. Many Vietnamese Hmong ended up immigrating to that area, and the connection to the present-day crisis is not lost on him:

“They have integrated so well and they have become a very integrated, important and contributing part of our community right here. And whenever you see Hmong, and the different influence they have in here, it makes you think of America doing the right thing, even in the wake of a disaster like Vietnam was,” he said.

“We did the right thing. We stood by people that stood by us, that were going to be persecuted because of their association and support to us. And we brought them to our country and then made them part of our society.”

While the U.S. government has acknowledged the problem and is putting things in motion to get these Afghans to safety, General Votel said that the American people can also help. No One Left Behind is a non-profit at the forefront of the issue, one that Votel supports himself. They have already raised over $1 million dollars for their cause of evacuating our Afghan allies from Kabul, and now the General is helping to spread the word far and wide.

While Americans can certainly offer their financial support to No One Left Behind, General Votel was just as quick to mention the importance of people using their “time and talent” to help. He says one of the best ways Americans can help right now is to be aware of the problem, make others aware of it, and especially, put pressure on Congress and keep the plight of the Afghans in the public eye and a high-priority for President Biden’s administration.

General Votel’s own experience with interpreters, in particular, speaks to why ensuring the safety of these Afghans is not only a question of American morality and doing the right thing, but also crucial to the safety of U.S. troops and the security of the American people. What interpreters provide troops on the ground is invaluable, and is not just translation of the language (though it is certainly that, as well).

“What I deeply valued was the cultural aspects that I really picked up from them… They understand the country. They understand things that are just so difficult for us as Americans to appreciate that they can share that with us, and they give us an understanding of the society and how things there work.”

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
More than just assets, interpreters are comrades to our troops on the ground. Mohammad Nadir (center) was an interpreter for three years, obtained his Special Immigrant Visa, and still enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as an 0311 in 2017 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Quezada)

The estimated cost of approximately $699 million to execute Operation Allies Refuge is a relatively small price to pay for a mission that will enhance security and save American lives in the future. However, General Votel emphasized to Sandboxx News more than once that there’s also the moral obligation that the United States has to the Afghan people who helped us.

“They become comrades. They begin to appreciate our values, as well, and are really good representatives for our country. So they’re just so much more than somebody that translates words from one language into another.”

  • To learn more about No One Left Behind, visit
  • To donate, click here.
  • To Tweet your U.S. Senators, click here.
  • To e-mail your U.S. Senators, click here.

This article by Tory Rich was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.


China just sent its homegrown aircraft carrier to the South China Sea

There’s a reason certain areas of the South China Sea are hotly disputed. There are an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil just waiting to be tapped down there. There are also 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. 

While many countries lay claim to the vast petrochemical fields underneath the South China Sea, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, only China has the economic and military might to build man-made islands there – and then militarize those islands with scores of troops. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Territorial claims in the South China Sea. China’s line crosses all the other countries’ lines, and, well… you see where this is going. (Voice of America/ Wikimedia Commons)

The latest military forces China is sending to the region is a first for the Chinese Communist Party: its very own, home-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong. 

Until those areas of the South China Sea claimed by China are officially recognized as belonging to anyone, the United States Navy will continue to conduct “Freedom of Navigation” missions right through those areas, daring China or anyone else to do something about it. 

U.S. Navy ships routinely enter the areas closest to the Spratly and Paracel Island chains, just two of many archipelagos which have either been artificially increased in size by China or have been completely constructed by the communist nation. China has artificially added 3,200 acres of land to the sea in the past decade. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
If the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) could talk, it’d probably say: “I wish a mofo would…” (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda)

While China has as many as 27 military outposts spread out among the islands of the South China Sea, with various ports, airstrips, aircraft and anti-air defenses, the United States sends its combat ships on these exercises on a regular basis because much of the world doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of Chinese claims on the region. 

Freedom of Navigation through the disputed area is important because the area claimed by China covers an important sea lane. Conservative estimates say at least $3.3 trillion of shipping per year runs through those lanes, along with 40% of the global supply of natural gas. 

The Chinese carrier Shandong recently departed its homeport of Sanya for the South China Sea to conduct exercises in the disputed areas. The ship finished construction just two years ago and is still in its testing phases according to Chinese news outlet Eastday.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
This screen grab taken from a report by Chinese military channel on May 3, 2021, shows stock image of aircraft carrier Shandong during an exercise in an unspecified location.

Shandong is replacing China’s other carrier, the Soviet-built Liaoning, as the latter returns to its homeport for maintenance. China complained about the presence of a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Mustin, accusing the destroyer of conducting illegal reconnaissance operations on the Liaoning. 

The United States Navy says everything the Mustin was doing in the South China Sea was legal. The U.S. Navy has increased its presence in the area by as much as 20% over the past year. It flew at least 65 reconnaissance missions in the South China Sea in April 2021, according to Chinese military think tanks. The Chinese Navy has responded with a 40% increase in naval presence. 

Despite the tensions in the region, the proximity of the two navies’ ships is unlikely to spark any kind of international incident. Both countries’ military forces conduct routine exercises there, regardless of the outrage or complaints they elicit from one another’s governments. 

The United States is determined to prevent military escalation in the region as claimants to the territory, especially the Philippines, turn up the heat on their rhetoric. 

Disputes over the region are also unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Though the United Nations and the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague have ruled against each and every Chinese claim on the area, China refuses to acknowledge the courts’ authority on the issue. 

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons


Why cops love doughnuts — an origin story

Cops love doughnuts. That’s the stereotype at least. Being caught in uniform with one of the delicious but unhealthy confections has long carried a certain stigma, but the real history behind the close relationship cops have with doughnuts is much more interesting and complex than the negative caricatures often put forth in American media.   

In some places, the cop-doughnut relationship was symbiotic. In others, it was necessary. But the reason cops and doughnuts are like peas and carrots in our collective cultural memory is because the doughnut shop was the only game in town. 

Cops have a lot to do during their shifts, no matter how long those shifts might be. When not actively responding to calls, patrolling their areas of responsibility, or doing the myriad things cops have to do during a typical 10-hour shift, police officers have to find a place to do the bulk of police work: writing reports. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Those are some nice doughnuts you’ve got there. Be a shame if somebody ate them all. Photo by Diogo Palhais on Unsplash.

To outsiders, police work has always been about walking the beat — the daily business of protecting and serving. For actual police officers, writing reports is a duty as old as walking any beat. And back in the day, cops didn’t have a lot of options for where they could post up and get some paperwork done. 

Even by the late 1970s, the idea of a 24-hour convenience store seemed insane to most people. Gas stations didn’t always have stores and weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today. They also closed at a decent hour. The same goes for grocery stores. Outside of major cities, all-night diners were rare, and even in the 1960s, only 10% of restaurants were open all night, catering mainly to truckers.

If a police officer’s beat wasn’t near one of these small handfuls of all-night spots, they were out of luck. But there was one place a tired, hungry peace officer could go to grab a cup of coffee, some food, and maybe get some work done — the good ol’ doughnut shop.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
A box of (police) performance-enhancing drugs (maybe?). Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash.

What was good for the police was also good for the doughnut shop. Being open late in small cities and towns meant they were a target for criminals looking for an easy payday. Having the local police force using your doughnut shop as a staging area meant built-in security as you got up in the early morning hours to make doughnuts. 

The symbiotic relationship spread all over the country, even as more and more establishments began to stay open late. When the interstate highway system ramped up construction in the 1960s and 1970s, the country became more connected, and some rural areas became significantly less rural. 

Doughnut shops even became late-night chains such as Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts. The cop-doughnut relationship held fast, and some stores set aside space for police officers to get their work done. Dunkin’ Donuts even had a companywide policy of catering to police. Its founder, William Rosenberg, credited the relationship with the company’s early success in his autobiography.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
The late-night doughnut shop: an American institution. Photo by Third Serving on Unsplash.

A doughnut is a decent snack for a graveyard shift. It’s a fresh, easily obtained source of calories that a busy officer might need for a night of busting punks. When the action dies down, coffee offers a burst of caffeinated energy to help cops get through their shifts. And coffee and doughnuts are relatively cheap, which is great for anyone working as a city or state employee. 

Despite the rotund appearance of police Chief Clancy Wiggum on The Simpsons, doughnuts aren’t to blame for the image of the overweight cop. In The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin, author Michael Krondl interviews police officers who recall their sweet treats giving them just the right amount of food needed to do the job.

“You got out there, walked around, rolled in the streets with criminals [and burned] the calories off,” Frank Rizzo, former Philadelphia police chief, told Krondl.  

Somewhere along the way, American popular culture began to notice, and the image of the local police officer began to shift into a caricature, fueled by the cop-doughnut relationship. Cops in film and television became less Andy Griffith and more Chief Wiggum. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
New York police on patrol, looking like they could use some doughnuts. Photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash.

What started with a wholesome beginning eventually became derogatory. Everyone from stand-up comics to punk bands and rappers began to make fun of the cop-doughnut dynamic. For some, there’s nothing worse than being caught with one of those sweet fried treats or being seen parked at a Krispy Kreme. 

Today, cops can generally post up anywhere to catch up on paperwork. Police cruisers have come a long way and have everything an officer needs during a shift. If they need a meal or a break, there are often many options open to them. 

But doughnuts and coffee still provide excellent fuel for the thin blue line, and late-night and early morning bakers appreciate the added security of having cops around. So the next time you see a cruiser parked at Dunkin’, cut your local police force a break and don’t cast shade. If you were in that uniform, you might be right there with them.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine/Images from Unsplash.


‘Tokyo Rose’ claimed she was trying to undermine Japanese propaganda in World War II

Iva Toguri had the bad luck of being sent to Japan to take care of her aunt in 1941. While she was there, the Japanese Empire launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, starting the Pacific War with the United States. 

The Los Angeles-born Toguri was stuck in a country at war with her home country at age 25. She refused to renounce her American citizenship and was closely watched as an enemy alien. She moved to Tokyo where she took a job as a typist at Radio Tokyo. 

By the end of the war she would find herself wanted by the U.S. Army, the FBI and other counterintelligence agencies on charges of aiding the enemy – but that’s not how she saw what she was doing at all. 

While working at the Radio Station, she met an Australian prisoner of war, Capt. Charles Cousens. After he was captured in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, his captors learned he had worked in radio before the war and he was put to the task of producing a morale-sapping propaganda show called “Zero Hour” with a handful or other POWs. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
alking with Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Thomas Gode and a Japanese policeman outside her Tokyo home during the making of a CinCPAC newsreel 9 September 1945 (National Archives)

He and two other prisoners, U.S. Army Capt. Wallace Ince and Philippine Army Lt. Normando Ildefonso “Norman” Reyes were determined to make the show as lame and harmless as they could, effectively canceling out the enemy propaganda effort. After meeting Iva Toguri, he decided he would bring her in on the joke. 

She outright refused to say anything anti-American on the show. Instead they openly mocked the idea of being a propaganda message. When she finally took up the mic in earnest, she lampooned the idea of the show, even explicitly saying things like “here’s the first blow at your morale.” Their Japanese captors didn’t understand the Western humor and double entendres they used. 

Toguri even used her salary on the show to get supplies for prisoners held there. She would eventually marry Felipe D’Aquino, who also worked at the station. 

Now named Iva D’Aquino, her personality on the show was a character called “Orphan Ann,” but American troops in the Pacific began referring to her (and other Japanese women on the radio) as “Tokyo Rose.” 

“Zero Hour” only ran for little more than a year and a half, and her appearances became less frequent as the war turned south for the Japanese. When Japan surrendered, she found herself wanted by almost everyone who had ever heard one of the broadcasts. 

When a magazine reporter offered a $2,000 reward for an interview with Tokyo Rose, she actually stepped forward to claim the reward. Instead she was apprehended and accused of treason for aiding the enemy in her broadcasts. 

Tokyo Rose
Toguri’s mugshot (Wikimedia Commons)

D’Aquino was originally held in jail for a year while the Army tried to gather evidence against her, but nothing she ever said on Radio Tokyo was anti-American. Neither the FBI nor the Army in Japan could find any evidence of treason. The officers she worked with on “Zero Hour” would not say anything against her. She was eventually released. 

After trying to return to the United States, public opinion was turned against her by the American media and she was arrested yet again, sent to San Francisco, and put on trial once more, facing eight counts of treason for her work at Radio Tokyo. She was convicted on one count, mentioning the loss of ships on the radio, “on a day during October, 1944, the exact date being to the Grand Jurors unknown.”

There was no evidence of D’Aquino mentioning any ships, and Charles Cousens was present as a defense witness, but she was convicted anyway and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She served six years in a West Virginia reformatory, alongside Mildred Gillars, also known as “Axis Sally.”

Feature image: National Archives


My 9/11 story: ‘I was supposed to be at the World Trade Center’

My experience on 9/11 is very similar to the millions of Americans who lived in the New York Tri-State area on that fateful day. 

Simple twists of fate, blind luck and crazy circumstances which shaped our lives for years to come. 

I was in Clifton, NJ and was from college and bored out of my mind. Ohio State back then was on the quarter system, so by September, everyone else was already back in school. The only person who was able to hang out was my friend Rich, who also went to Ohio State. So, we hung out a lot and tried to find ways to keep occupied, out of boredom. The day before September 11, we went to the Willowbrook Mall. I bought NCAA for my PlayStation 2 and we walked around aimlessly through Sam Goody, Waldenbooks and Pacific Sunwear.  I looked at Rich and said, “Man we have to do something a bit more exciting than this tomorrow. Let’s go into the city.” Rich agreed and mentioned that he had a cool camera and wanted to try taking some awesome shots. I asked him what part of the city he wanted to go to. He said, “I have never been to the World Trade Center, how about that?” 

“Sounds good, let’s go first thing in the morning,” I said. For me, going into the city as a broke college kid meant taking the early bus and spending as much time there as possible. I hated spending money on the bus or the train and not getting my money’s worth. So, I told Rich that we should leave at 7 am. Between the bus and the subway, we would probably get to the Twin Towers around 8-830 am.  He agreed. 

That night I talked to my girlfriend at the time, who was on vacation in Lake Tahoe. She was having a miserable time and was even more upset when I told her I was going to NYC the next day as it sounded a lot more fun than the camping trip she was on. I told her I would think of her and call her when I was at the “top of the world.”   

As soon as I hung up, my phone rang again. It was Rich. 

“Dude, I REALLY don’t want to get up early tomorrow, let’s go later,” he said. I was irked. “Man, you know how much it costs!” I told him. (Remember broke college kid) “And you can’t stay there late because your mom wants you home by 6pm. So, lets just go early and spend the whole day instead of half.”

Rich was more of a college soul than me and was adamant that we really didn’t need to go early. I tried to change his mind, telling him that he probably could get some amazing shots in the morning from the top of the World Trade Center. But he finally said, “Dude, I want to sleep in. We will go to NYC later in the day and it will be fun.”  

I was irritated but also kind of agreed. Even though I was a morning person, it was kind of lame to go that early. I begrudgingly agreed and hung up the phone.

I woke up on 9/11 at 6am and jumped out of bed as my mom and dad both left for work. I flipped on the TV and was baffled that my parents, in the year 2001, still didn’t have cable.  Flipping through the nine stations we did have, I settled on a local morning show and ate my cereal. The weather came on and I remember thinking, “Man, it is a beautiful day. That dude would have had amazing shots if we were headed there now.” I looked at the clock and wondered when Rich would wake up and what time we would head downtown. 

Then I heard it. 

Now, I have to stress, to this day I don’t know what “it” was – just that there was a weird noise outside.  I thought maybe it was the recycling truck and popped my head outside. I walked around the house wondering if maybe something had hit the house or something. It was nothing. But I looked around and thought, “Wow, it is really nice outside.” There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was shaping up to be a beautiful morning in New York City and I was standing around in New Jersey.

I stood outside for awhile and finally went back into the house. I glanced at the TV, went to grab my cereal bowl, and then stopped. I looked back at the TV. This wasn’t right.

My eyes told me there was a big fiery hole in the World Trade Center. My brain told me that was impossible. It took me a good minute to process what I was seeing and hearing. The news reporters were speculating as it just happened but I knew that it was bad. I picked up the phone and called my mom who worked at the ICU, then-named Passaic General Hospital. She said she’d heard the news and was on standby and might be home late. I then called my dad who worked at St James Hospital in Newark. He told me that he was headed to the roof to see what was happening and to stay off the phone. I hung up, turned around to the TV and saw a fireball. The second plane had hit, and my TV went dead. 

When I mentioned my parents didn’t have cable, that meant that the TV signal came through the World Trade Center. In 1993, terrorists carried out a truck bomb attack on the Twin Towers. While people died in that attack, their goal of toppling the towers didn’t go as planned. But everyone who didn’t have cable lost their signal (except for CBS which was airing the Wizard of Oz). 

Now on this day, I stared at static and flipped frantically through the stations to see what was happening. All static. Even CBS wasn’t coming through. I then flipped on the radio and turned on 1010 WINS – the local news station. That is when I got confirmation that it was a second plane. 

By this time, Rich called asking if I saw what had happened. I foolishly tried to explain it away. “This had got to be some type of horrible accident.” As I said the words, I realized how dumb it sounded. Rich, after a second, matter of factly said, “Dude, this is planned. Someone is attacking us.”  He mentioned heading to Garret Mountain so we could see what was going on. 

By the time he got to my house, the radio was talking about other hijacked plans in the skies. I ran out and jumped in his car. He had Howard Stern on.  As I said what’s up, Rich cut me off and motioned to the radio. Howard and his crew were giving a live account of what was going on. 

Rich started driving toward Garret Mountain which offered a great view of the city and took Grove Street. Now, from 6th to 12th grade, every time I went to school, I would do a little superstitious routine when my dad drove down Grove Street. I would look to my right and see the Empire State Building and then look further and see the World Trade Center. Not sure why I did it, but it was just something I made a habit out of. As we drove down the street that day, I looked over. 

“Shit, stop the car!” I yelled at Rich. He pulled over and we saw the sight that would be seared into my head for the rest of my life. To see it on TV is one thing. But for the millions who lived in the area and saw that skyline every day, this was too much. Against a clear blue sky, half the Manhattan skyline looked as magnificent and radiant as ever. But there, were the two towers and so much smoke.

Other people started pulling over as well or slowing down to stare out their windows. To use the cliché, it was like a movie. Rich looked around and said, “Let’s go man, we can see better up at Garret Mountain”. 

As we jumped in his car, someone on the radio, (I don’t know who) was talking about jumpers. We looked at each other then back at the towers.  How bad was it that people were resorting to jumping?

It only took minutes to get to Garret Mountain. We parked and headed up the hill to the overlook. This was a spot that locals and tourists would go to get a magnificent view of the city. As we made our way to the trail up, a man came running down the hill. He was screaming, “The tower came down! The tower came down!” as he literally was pulling the hair out of his head. We watched him run to his car and quickened our pace up the hill. 

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When we got to the overlook, my jaw dropped. As if the previous view was bad enough, now we saw one tower and a lot of smoke. There were a lot of other people standing there. Some were crying, some were quiet. A few construction workers were loudly talking about bombing whoever did this to the Stone Age. I just stared at the remaining tower. It looked crooked at this point, and I knew it was coming down too. A cop showed up and started yelling that the park was closed, and we had to leave. 

Some people tried to argue with him, but I didn’t want to look anymore. As I walked away, the second tower came down. 

We headed back to my house and found that CBS was the only station broadcasting on my TV. We sat there transfixed trying to make sense of what happened. After a while, we decided to play PlayStation. I think it was just to distract us. I put in NCAA and we just sat there, not even playing, just staring like zombies. Rich finally said he had to go home, and took off. 

When my mom got home, I was surprised. “Mom, isn’t your hospital on standby? What if there are a lot of casualties? There might be thousands of people wounded!” 

My mom looked at me sadly and said, “There is no need, there won’t be many wounded…”

At 6pm, my phone rang. It was my girlfriend. I feel foolish, but I had forgotten about her. Cell service had been down and she was frantic, because the last thing I told her was I was going to the World Trade Center. To be honest, I didn’t even think about that (who could) until that moment. I tried to calm her down, but the gravity of my buddy wanting to sleep in and changing our day hit me hard. So many didn’t get that simple twist of fate. So many more were right there. So many more didn’t have the luxury that a couple of college kids on summer break had. 

That night, I just sat in my room and cried until I fell asleep. 

Two days later, after cursing at the news non-stop, my mom handed me a bag. From her years as a nurse, she had plenty of nursing supplies around and said maybe I could head into the city and donate them.  I jumped at the chance as sitting around was driving me crazy. I had to help, even though I didn’t know how. I called Rich and asked if he wanted to go. He jumped at the chance too.

We took the bus (like we were supposed to two days prior) and headed to the Port Authority. As the bus exited the Lincoln Tunnel, it pulled over to the side of the road. The bus driver opened the door and said, “Bomb scare at the Port Authority, everyone off!” We stumbled off the bus and wandered around midtown. We eventually got to 5th Avenue where I saw people just walking down the street. There were no cars and people were just wandering around. I saw some people wearing masks (like we do now) and wondered why they had them on. I soon found out why. As we walked downtown, the smell became apparent. It wasn’t just the smell. It was the smoke, dust and pollution that the debris had kicked up. 

As we got further downtown, it got worse. The best way to describe it is like this. Remember the burn pits in Iraq? Imagine it 100 times worse. That was the smell. I have no clue how the brave men and women who worked to save lives and clear debris handled more than a day of that. And wonder why we don’t help them now. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever

We walked down as far as we could and got to Washington Square Park. I saw a place that was taking donations and dropped off the bag of medical supplies. There was a makeshift memorial there and I went over there to look. I said a prayer, but honestly didn’t feel better. 

A few military trucks drove by and everyone on the street started cheering. Then I saw a man walking around waving an American flag. He was smiling and giving everyone a thumbs up. I guess he was trying to brighten people’s spirits and give them something to be proud of. I wish I could say it worked but what I saw next changed my life forever. 

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We went walking further down and got to Houston Street then Canal Street. Streets were blocked and we were trying to see how far we could go while also trying to not get in the way. As we were navigating the streets, we turned and came across hundreds of people. 

They were carrying pictures.

People were walking around frantically. Some had computer printouts with pictures and phone numbers on them. Some were carrying pictures ripped out of albums and frames. Some had framed portraits taken down from the walls. They were running around, showing pictures to people asking, “Have you seen my dad?” and “My daughter never came home, please look and tell me you saw her” and “Please take this, please look for my brother!” 

An older Indian woman came walking up to me. She had a framed picture of a man. He was wearing a suit, standing tall and looking sternly at the camera. As an Indian American I knew that look. That was a man who came to this country with nothing and succeeded and wanted to show his pride. My dad and uncles had the same looks in their professional portraits. She walked up to me and said ever so softly, “I can’t find my husband. I don’t know what to do. He is my life. He is my whole life….”

I was 21 years old and to be honest, I was a very cocky kid. I thought I knew everything and was always the first to pretend I had all the answers.

But in that place, with those poor people, I realized I didn’t know anything about the world. It didn’t make sense and I didn’t even know what to tell them. I knew that at this point many of those people in the pictures had to be dead, but I also didn’t even know what to say or how to comfort them. 

And for the first time in my life, I felt true hatred. I told myself I would do something one way or the other. 

I wish I could tell you I went straight to the recruiting office and signed up. But I went back to Ohio State a few days later and struggled. School didn’t make sense and people pissed me off.

Within days I had beer bottles thrown at me from passing cars, I was called a terrorist, and was almost jumped. One of my roommates, Steve, wouldn’t let me walk to my girlfriend’s house at night and drove me there for a bit, even though it wasn’t far. When people would talk about how scared and angry they were, I would get mad. What did they know? I also was bothered by who didn’t make it. Why did some people get lucky and others didn’t? I read about close calls from survivors and unlucky breaks from families of victims. Classmates and people from my hometown that went through worse and lost people. Family that was there. It didn’t make sense. Classes didn’t make much sense either to me and I dropped out. 

Several times I talked about joining the military but my family, my girlfriend or friends would talk me out of it. But the desire was still there. Eventually in 2003 I enlisted in the Marines. I didn’t ship till 2004 and even then, was flabbergasted to realize I had signed up to do paperwork. Yes, yours truly didn’t read his contract and signed up to do four years of paperwork for the 1st Marine Division. My final year, I got into trouble and was sent to a combat unit and deployed to Iraq. 

By that point, I was a lot different. I didn’t have the hatred in my heart. In fact, like many, I thought we were actually going to help the Iraqis. 

When I got out of the Marines in 2008, I was actually embarrassed of my service. I was a POG, didn’t have a CAR, only did one deployment, and honestly felt like I didn’t do anything of value. 

To be honest, I wasn’t even a good Marine. I was unathletic, had to get an eyesight waiver to join and could barely shoot, didn’t know how to swim, and struggled with knee injuries and a broken vertebrae while in. I was pretty much the Anti-Chesty Puller and felt like a joke. 

When people asked why I had joined, I would give them some answer about wanting adventure or wanting to travel. I felt stupid saying I joined because of 9/11 only to join years later and spend 7 months on the Syrian border. 

And as the years rolled, I still struggled with my role. When we killed Bin Laden, I smoked a Cuban cigar but also felt like I had no part in that at all. When ISIS rolled through the border, I angrily wondered why we even bothered in the first place. When Afghanistan fell weeks ago, like many, I felt like it was a complete waste. 

But it wasn’t. You see, one thing I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of people in this country that call themselves patriots. A lot of military aged, able-bodied men like to pronounce their zeal for America and devotion to our country. And there is this new thing where a lot of these guys like to label themselves as “alpha males”. 

I guess that’s nice, but for me I wonder. Why didn’t they join? They are military aged, in good shape and claim to love America. But they sat around the last 20 years and sang that weird Toby Keith song and got mad at different people for perceived breaches of patriotism. But I guess they have to make up for the fact they didn’t serve. 

I guess they will have to live with that. 

And we veterans will have to understand our place too. 

Are we all heroes? No.

But when our country needed us, we showed up. Men and women from different states, ethnic groups, religious, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, and other diverse categories. When America asked, we responded, “What can we do for our country?”

Photos courtesy of Joslin Joseph


My 9/11 story: A Naval Academy plebe on guard

There is nothing funny about one of the most tragic moments in American history. Too many lives were taken that day and many more sacrificed afterwards to allow anything about 9/11 to be personified as a joke. But after 20 years, including 4 deployments, three of which were in combat in Iraq,  I can now look back on that fateful day with some humor. Because in learning to laugh again, we begin to heal. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
US Naval Academy photo

Today I can laugh at how ill-prepared, young and not-intimidating-at-all that I must have looked in the first hours of the War on Terror. I wish I could tell you I had a family legacy of military service back to the revolution and that I was next in line, but the truth is I joined because of the movie, Independence Day. 

The 90s was a time of peace when the biggest threat to our world came from an alien attack that blew up the White House. Thankfully, our planet had Captain Steven Hillard, a cool, suave Marine aviator played by Will Smith who was just as awesome in extraterrestrial dogfights as he was by punching aliens in the face on the ground. I watched Independence Day seven times in the theater and, like Will Smith, I wanted to be the Marine who was ready to act when the time came; that set me on the path to the U.S. Naval Academy.

So in June 2001, I packed my bags and left West Texas. In an eerie fate of hindsight, I had planned to stay a few days with a friend in New Jersey who was also joining the Annapolis class of 2005. We spent our last few days of civilian life driving around, looking for beer or a smoke.  We spent a day in Manhattan, including a visit to the south tower of the World Trade Center. I can still remember the morning sun blazing over us on the observation deck and the fear I had to even look over the edge. It was too high, too scary and too hot for me. I left. 

Just 90 days later I was a plebe — a freshman, the lowest of the low. My normal day consisted of a lot of pushups, yelling (mostly at me) and squaring away everything. My socks had to be folded with a smiley face up, left to right, dark to light. My rack had to be tucked in daily with a perfect 45 degree crease in the corners. My uniform had to be perfect from the creases in my shirt right to my gigline. Any infraction was punishable and I was consistently reminded by my leaders that “attention to detail” would one day save lives. In short, discipline made the U.S. military ready for anything. 

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I woke up at 5 in the morning. Like everyone else, l rushed to get my room and uniform inspection ready before breakfast with the 4,000 or so other midshipmen. We were together in peacetime and would dine together at war. None of us knew it then, and I found myself being screamed at for not having a fresh haircut. I didn’t eat much that morning and as soon as I was released, I ran to the barber shop to fix myself. I waited in line, silent, studying for my chemistry class that would soon begin. The radio in the barber shop played a mix of morning news and classic rock. Then, breaking update, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. There was shock but not panic. “Not a Navy pilot,” someone laughed. We carried on our lives. 

A Midshipmen tribute at the Heroes baseball game, on the 15th anniversary.

As I sank into the barber’s chair, I noticed the pagers go off, one by one, from those waiting in line. First it was a lieutenant commander, then a Marine captain, then a chief. The pings kept coming down the chain of command. The barber was just finishing shaving the right side of my head, when an announcement came over the loudspeaker – a second plane had hit the World Trade Center; others were missing. The Nation was under attack. All midshipmen were ordered back to their barrack’s rooms. 

The barber kicked me out of his chair without finishing and I ran across the campus. Marines with machine guns were rushing to man the gates. When a low flying aircraft came over, we stopped, waiting to see if it would crash into the ground. It all felt like a movie unfolding around me, only this time this wasn’t aliens, it was real. 

Inside the barracks was chaos. People were running into each other trying to get back to their rooms while TV screens showed smoldering towers. My roommate from Long Island stood silent, glued to the image before him as the north tower fell before our eyes. “My dad works down there,” he whispered. I thought of the day just a few months before, and how I had just walked away from those towers while so many people were amidst a living hell. 

The words of the loudspeaker came on again. The Pentagon was under attack, planes were still missing and we, in Annapolis, were a potential target. We all needed to stay inside and wait. At that moment, a second class, one of the juniors came up to us, baseball bat and golf club in hand. His first question was, “Millsap, what the hell happened to your head?” I remembered that only half my head was shaved and I must have looked like the weirdest Chia pet on the planet. “Nevermind,” he said. He passed me a baseball bat and pointed me to a door and then told me, “You don’t let anyone inside that door without a military ID.”  

For the next few hours, I wasn’t Will Smith, but I was a kid with a half-shaved head, a baseball bat in hand and a mission to protect my post. That’s how my war started and I vowed to myself never to get caught off guard again. From that day on, I trained for war.  

Chase graduated from the Naval Academy and served three tours in Iraq as a Marine Infantry Officer before joining 19th Special Forces Group as a Green Beret. He learned Arabic, overcome his fear of heights to jump from planes and went to conduct counter-terrorism missions against some of the people who planned the 9/11 attacks. He still gets nervous about unfinished haircuts.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Millsap, deployed in 2007.

President Bush calls Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal ‘unbelievably bad’

George W. Bush doesn’t believe the United States should withdraw from Afghanistan. As Taliban fighters begin to make huge gains across large swathes of the country and the Afghan government in Kabul looks more and more endangered, Bush told reporters he disagrees with the drawdown.

When asked if he thought the withdrawal was a mistake, the former U.S. president told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, “I think it is, yeah. Because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad and sad.”

Bush was talking to the German news agency about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support for sending German troops into Afghanistan when she came to power in 2005. One of the reasons why Merkel supported the troops, Bush surmised, was because she saw the potential for the growth of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Now, the former president believes the progress made by women in the country may soon be all for naught. 

“I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm,” he said. Bush also discussed his concern for translators and other supporters along with the families who aided U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. “They’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.” 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
President Bush visiting troops at Bagram Airfield in 2008 (U.S. Army)

When the U.S. drawdown began in earnest in May 2021, there were 1,100 German troops left, along with forces from 36 other partner countries. 

Bush can look back on the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which was launched under his order in October 2001 over the Taliban government’s refusal to extradite Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11th terror attacks. 

While the current administration remains bizarrely optimistic in many ways about the survival of the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban keep gaining ground. 

In the beginning of July, the Taliban had been gaining ground at a furious pace, sometimes unopposed. The Long War Journal keeps a regular weekly time-lapse map of how many of Afghanistan’s 407 districts fall to the Islamist terror group. The first week of July saw the group capture an astonishing 10% of the country in just six days.

Despite the facts on the ground, President Joe Biden denied the Taliban are on track to take over the country, giving a speech at the White House that kept with the message that the Afghan government could hold its own.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Afghanistan’s President, Ashraf Ghani, is welcomed to Arlington National Cemetery by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, alongside then-Vice President Biden in 2015 (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

“The likelihood that there’s going to be a Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

Biden’s assessment doesn’t jive with those of Gen. Austin Miller, the war’s final commanding general, or those of the U.S. intelligence community, who believe the Afghan government could fall in as little as six weeks after foreign troops completely withdraw. 

Former President George W. Bush had long been known not to publicly criticize successive presidents, keeping mum during the Obama and Trump administrations. Biden said he even consulted with Presidents Bush and Obama. Obama called it the right thing to do but Bush remained concerned with maintaining the progress made in the country. 

Upon hearing President Bush’s concerns, critics were quick to criticize Bush and his handling of the war’s early years, which some believe led to the Taliban’s enduring staying power and eventual resurgence. 

Feature image: President Bush visits Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, 2008 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)


The 6 most insane obsessions of the world’s craziest dictators

Most of us will never know for sure, but there must be something about absolute power that drives a person absolutely insane. For some reason, the dictators that capture and hold power for decades start exhibiting strange behaviors that definitely weren’t apparent when they were just a simple goat herder (Moammar Qaddafi), weatherman (Joseph Stalin) or doctor (François Duvalier).

Next: The 9 day jobs of brutal dictators

Those obsessions might have been present while they were nobodies, but they definitely got the chance to bloom once they started living life with a cheat code for unlimited money and power inside their own country. Here are a few of the most bizarre obsessions:

1. Kim Jong-Il – Food

While it may surprise no one that a North Korean is obsessed with food, most of them are obsessed with finding food. Former dictator and dad to current dictator Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il, had no problems finding it, but he was very particular about it. 

Legends say he had a team of female servants who would go through each individual grain of rice destined for his plate to ensure they were all exactly the same size. He also demanded that rice be cooked on a fire made from wood from sacred Mount Paektu – 420 miles from Pyongyang.

When he wanted a taste of international cuisine, he had it flown in… brick by brick. To make the perfect pizza, he flew in a pizzeria from Italy. To make beer, he moved a brewery from Germany. It’s a good thing he wasn’t into wings, because the Pyongyang Hooters would be incredibly depressing. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Guy Fieri really missed out on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: Pyongyang” (Wikimedia Commons)

2. François “Papa Doc” Duvalier – Black Dogs

The former doctor and Haitian dictator was a longtime diabetic who suffered a heart attack and went into a coma after an insulin overdose. He recovered, but as he convalesced, he left power with an ally, Clement Barbot. Of course, he soon began to accuse Barbot of trying to steal that power and overthrow Papa Doc. It wasn’t true, but Barbot then actually tried it by kidnapping Papa Doc’s family.

The coup failed and a nationwide manhunt soon began for Barbot. When he couldn’t be found, Papa Doc somehow got it in his head that Barbot had transformed himself into a black dog. So the dictator, despite being an educated doctor, had all the black dogs in Haiti put to death.

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
As if being a cruel despot to humans wasn’t bad enough… (Image by LaurenLiebhaber from Pixabay)

3. Fidel Castro – Ice Cream

Even before he seized power in Cuba, Papa Fidel was known to be obsessed with ice cream. Supporters sent him ice cream cake for his birthday while he was fighting in the jungles. He celebrated seizing power in Havana with a nice milkshake and once ate 18 scoops of ice cream for lunch. 

There’s no insane, over-the-top story about his obsession. He did create one of the world’s best ice cream parlors, Coppelia, for the Cuban people, which the government still subsidizes. The closest the CIA ever got to assassinating the Cuban dictator was poisoning one of his milkshakes. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Nothing says “party” like state-run ice cream (Wikimedia Commons)

4. Joseph Stalin – Nude Drawings

We aren’t saying Stalin was making nude drawings or forcing people to draw in the nude. His obsession was much more specific. He really liked making rude comments on drawings of nude men. It didn’t matter if it was a classical painting or a doodle on a cocktail napkin, he was going to write something on it. 

The comments sometimes had nothing to do with the drawings. On one nude male figure, the Soviet dictator wrote, “Ginger bastard Radek, if he had not pissed against the wind, if he had not been angry, he would still be alive.” 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever

Radek was a former Trotsky supporter who disappeared into Stalin gulags. At least the world knows what happened to him.

5. Adolph Hitler – Western Novels

The Fuhrer was obsessed with the writings of German author Karl May. He was more specifically obsessed with the author’s novels set in the Old American West, featuring a fictional Apache war chief named Winnetou and a German called Old Shatterhand. He even mentions May in “Mein Kampf.” 

As World War II dragged on, Hitler still forced his generals, troops and the German people to read the Old West works of Karl May, despite widespread shortages in everything needed to actually make books. He even demanded his generals read it for inspiration in fighting the Red Army. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
Hitler’s generals would draw straws to determine who would interrupt book club (maybe) (Bundesarchiv)

6. Moammar Qaddafi – Condoleezza Rice

The Libyan dictator had an obsession with Condi that she described as “weird and a bit creepy.” Of course, she knew about his obsession with her: he made a video about her called “Black Flower in the White House,” complete with an original score by a Libyan composer. Luckily, she wrote in her memoir, the video was not raunchy. 

When anti-Qaddafi rebels captured his compound, they found a homemade scrapbook of her in his personal quarters, one that was filled with photos and press clippings. They, of course, showed the world immediately to let the public humiliation of Qaddafi begin. 

My 9/11 story: I watched from the sidelines as the world changed forever
If you look up the song online, there are multiple guesses/ interpretations to how it went — no, seriously
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released)
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