Transcript of Road Home Program: The Podcast, Episode 10
“We united, we came together, and we found ways to help.”
The Road Home Program team comes together to share their individual stories of how the events of 9/11 impacted their lives and the lives of all Americans.
Will Beiersdorf, Executive Director at The Road Home Program at Rush: Welcome to this special edition of the Road Home Program, the podcast. This is a special episode about 9/11 20 years later, and looking back on that day where we were, and how much things changed our lives over the past two decades. I’m your host, Will Beiersdorf, Executive Director here at the Road Home Program, and I’m going to be discussing with members of our Outreach Team, how the events that unfolded on 9/11 changed all of our lives. We will also have several guests from the community provide their insight into the impact over the last 20 years. So, Modie, where were you on 9/11?
Modie Lavin, Senior Outreach Coordinator at The Road Home Program at Rush: I was at home, I, the kids were at school, a couple blocks down the street, and my assistant had just showed up at my house. And we were getting ready to go to work. And there’s a painter and the news was on and we were packing things up and all of a sudden looked at the news and realized that we weren’t going anywhere. So, we stayed at my house in awe and watched the events unfold and cried hard when we realized that this wasn’t, the first plane wasn’t an accident. That there was an attack on America. And, of course, awaited to hear about the kids in school.
Will Beiersdorf: And Ashton, where were you on 9/11?
Ashton Kroner, Outreach Coordinator at The Road Home Program at Rush: I was in my Texas history class. I was in seventh grade. And Mr. Schoonmaker was my teacher and I had a friend, Amanda, who had been watching television, and one of her classes and she came in and told the, you know, the entire class, and we honestly didn’t believe her at first. So, you know, we ended up stopping at the auditorium and, you know, kind of just was, sat in unbelief, you know, not really understanding what was happening.
Will Beiersdorf: And Ramon?
Ramon Prieto, Outreach Coordinator at The Road Home Program at Rush: Yes, I was sitting, while I was at home in the morning, preparing for a day at work, I was assigned to the Chicago recruiting. I was, my family and I were on recruiting duty. And I loved it. And so yeah, the news came out in the morning, and we watched it and kind of shocked what was really going on and didn’t really understand it. Proceeded to the office because we had to find young Americans to serve our country, but really didn’t understand at that particular moment when it happened. But as we were sitting in the recruiting station and the events were unfolding, things started to sink in as far as where this was going and how things were transpiring, what our role would be. And so, as you can imagine, sitting in an army recruiting station, as your country is being attacked, is pretty, pretty sobering experience, and then brought it all home. And then from there, we just continued with our mission, although the rest of the day did release us from work, to return home to our families, which is really nice. spent the rest of day my family just kind of low key hanging outside, playing, and enjoying the time kids. He’s got our children and they didn’t understand what was going on. And we were going to go ahead and bother with it. So, that’s how we spent our time.
Will Beiersdorf: Chris, what, what were you doing on 9/11?
Christopher Miller, Outreach Coordinator at The Road Home Program at Rush: Yeah, I was in the Marine Corps. I just got done with PT session that early that morning, capitals in California FNPT session got showered up, went to the chow hall to go get some bag breakfast goodies before we went to a machine gun range. We’re going to shoot machine guns later on that day. Right after breakfast, I walked in the chow hall. And the first plane had already hit. It was on the news in the chow hall. And while I was waiting in line, saw the second plane and still not really understanding what’s going on. Or you know, we’re just kind of oblivious to what’s happening. I thought was a plane crash first, and then it turned into auto or under attack? Yeah, so that was the chow hall at the San Mateo area, Camp Pendleton.
Will Beiersdorf: And where was I? On September 11th. I was actually getting ready for work. And again, Mary Beth came down and said, hey, there was an accident in New York. I said, “Okay.” you know, and then a plane apparently hit one of the World Trade Center. So, I’m like, has a plane hit the World Trade Center. And I actually remember watching the second plane hit which again was like, wow, that really set it apart. And it wasn’t just more than a couple hours later that, basically I got the call that we were being activated. So, it’s all really, it was an interesting time. And my boys were a little, too. Two, how old were my boys? Will, Chris and Matt. Two, four and six? So, youngsters, you know. So, it was interesting to kind of see, like, how life could change in less than, you know, a couple hours of time. So, Mary Beth, on September 11th, 2001, what were you doing that day?
Mary Beth Beiersdorf, Executive Director at Salute, Inc.: Well, you know, like, every day we kind of, it’s a pattern that we wake up and we start our morning with breakfast or coffee and get the day go, rolling. And I walked by the television, and it was on the news, as we watched, you know, the news every morning. And what I saw was just horrific. And I ran to, to you, Will, and said, “My God, there’s been a plane crash. Something doesn’t look right.” And shortly after that, we learned that the rest of our world had changed forever. And that quickly, our lives would be affected. And it was just surreal. And we just carried on the day, like it was a normal day, and then quickly found out that it wasn’t.
Veteran 1: I was at my parent’s house, I was sleeping, I had to go to work at the airport at noon. And I remember sleeping in the same room as my sister for some reason. And my dad came in. And I could tell by the way, he even opened the door, something was wrong. And he said, “Girls, get up, you got to see this.” And I just remember walking down the hallway and seeing the television screen in the background and seeing a ball of fire coming from a building. And I immediately knew that the feeling I got when my father told me to get up was certainly something important.
Will Beiersdorf: So, Modie, how did September 11th affect your life?
Modie Lavin: Um, it’s, boy, I could talk about an hour answering that question. But I would say in the immediate aftereffect of 9/11, there was a sense of frightened, scared, trying to explain to your kids and kind of hyper vigilant, especially living in a big city like Chicago. Every airplane that went by you were, you know, on edge. But I loved the beautiful unity of America that came together. And deciding to, you know, unite, and this can’t happen to us again. And watching it unfold is, I know, local folks that went off to war to try and fight these terrorists and keep our country safe from this and they did a fantastic job of that. And my son, Connor, was always highly patriotic, and joined the Marine Corps, and the fight against terror as well and went over to Afghanistan and sacrificed his life for our freedom and to keep us safe. So, I’ve been dealing with that since March 1st of 2012, when Connor lost his life there. And as I said, I could talk about this for a long time. But over the 20 years, the events of 9/11 have affected me and everybody around me in many different ways.
Will Beiersdorf: And Ashton, how does September 11th affect your life?
Ashton Kroner: You know, it fits in my decision to join the military. I was incredibly patriotic, growing up in Texas, you kind of have to be but, you know, when September 11th happened, I just remember sitting there thinking that there’s something that I have to do to be able to protect my friends and family. So, I chose to enlist in the military right after high school where I quickly deployed to Iraq, was able to meet my husband there. You know, he ended up exiting the service after that deployment. I had re enlisted and deployed to Afghanistan where I saw, you know, close friends get injured and, you know, happy to deal with the aftermath of, you know, really going to war and the impact that it has on the family. So, for me it kind of helped me choose my career path, you know, and in doing so I was able to meet some really important people in my life that, you know, that I cherish. And I think it’s all, you know, based on, you know, one day’s events, you know, because I was teetering on law enforcement or military. And, you know, that one decision, that one event made it so I wanted to serve my country and in doing so, I mean, it’s been a huge impact on my life.
Will Beiersdorf: And, Ramon, how did September 11th affect your life?
Ramon Prieto: As I mentioned earlier, my family and I were serving on recruiting duty at that particular moment when it happened and from there our lives changed pretty drastically because we part of that organization. Shortly thereafter, we left recruiting duty and reported down to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and I became a senior leader in training and training status. So we are, we built up our organization, to basically fight the global war on terrorism. We had a major, major influx of young Americans that came through to receive training to serve their country and the intelligence community. I was working in the intelligence community and go out there and do their duty to do whatever we asked them to fight this world war on terror. So, that initially was our impact. It was pretty, was pretty exciting, I guess is the word you could use, as you can imagine. The military was, you know, we were really engaged and ramped up because that’s our job to defend our country. So, you know, as you can imagine, the excitement and the unknowns that were there, but just the whole idea of camaraderie to come together to face this unknown threat. Global War imperative. So, it was a huge event, this first couple of years. And then I was a career soldier. We lived in the military community. Watched many, many folks get deployed through the years, return back home, and yeah. Challenge, find, work through those challenges, whatever they may be in their lives, but I was able to observe that through our tenure, of our career in the military. So, that impact initially and then, of course, to see the residual, the aftereffects of what it takes to serve during a conflict was truly impactful in my life. So, and that’s what brings me here today. You know that there’s women out there that need some help. And that’s how it impacted me and my family.
Will Beiersdorf: You, Chris, how did September 11th affect your life?
Christopher Miller: Oh, my life at the time, being an active-duty Marine, disrupted my world. I joined in peacetime. My aspirations in the military were, live in California, learn how to surf, travel around the world. And I had accomplished that already in the first year of my enlistment, I just got back from a deployment right when this happened. And the training on that day is the day that training really got real, is the way I like to call it. Every, everything we did, from that moment on, took on a different meaning. It wasn’t you know, playing Rambo in the backyard at Camp Pendleton anymore. It was serious with, with life and death repercussions. And then, not too much longer, after, a few months after deployed to Iraq. Saw the invasion of Iraq happen, was part of that. Came back. I was an instructor for more people going. When we first went to Iraq with that, okay, we did it, the wars over, alright! And it just wasn’t, it just kept going. You know, 20 minutes later, the countless units and Marines and soldiers and sailors and airmen and everyone that’s had to, that’s been a part of this for the last 20 years. Just changed, it didn’t just change Americans lives, either. The folks we were in Iraq interact with people I’ve met from around the world that changed the whole world changed in one day. And, you know, the beautiful thing about humans is that bad can come good things through that. Been able to help other people get help with their mental health care. The world. America kind of came together seeing that happen was impressive, and it’s something, something to be a part of.
Will Beiersdorf: And of course, how did it affect, you know, September 11th affect my life? Gosh, this is a question that, as Modie said, I could talk for hours, if not days. But when I joined the military, like many other folks we did to advance our careers and college. But I knew in the back of my mind that something could happen. And when September 11th unfolded, you know, we all knew we had to step up and serve our country. And so I was deployed a couple weeks after September 11th, down to Guantanamo Bay, and spent, you know, almost a year down there. Setting up operations and bringing in the, the folks that were being gathered from around the world, literally. Primarily Afghanistan, of course, but who had actually perpetrated these, these attacks, we thought had perpetrated this attacks. During that time, it was interesting to see how communities came together, and people helped my family and other families. And so from that, I was introduced to a whole new world because I didn’t really know the challenges that military men and women faced, whether active duty or reserve, or guardsmen or women. And so, and, like me, to see the challenges of what happens. And also, intro, sadly enough, introduced me also to, you know, the effects of war that we saw with men and women getting injured, not just physically but also mentally. And so that’s why, you know, one of the things that came out of this, which was a great thing was, you know, Mary Beth and I formed Salute Inc., helping veterans as they came back, men and women that came back with the physical as well as the invisible, visible as well as invisible wounds. And then also brought me to Rush back in 2013 to start Road, what was to become Road Home Program and find a good group of people to help us help these individuals and their family members in battling the invisible wounds of war life. And so, as Chris mentioned, we, you know, some really great things came out of this one unfortunate, you know, on a day that affected all of us. But we united, we came together, and we found ways to help.
Veteran 1: It affected every part of my life. At the time, I was working for a rental car location at the airport. So that day, I had to be in at noon, and the plane hit the tower at about 9:45 Central time. So, it was just really confusing. I remember my dad telling me not to go to work. And I was like, I have to go. We had an offsite location. So I didn’t feel like I was a target, or we, our, like our office would be a target. But um, I went in, and it was very confusing. The people were pouring out of the doors. People were yelling. People were crying. The phones are ringing off the hook. The TV kept replaying the buildings coming down. And I just remember people wanting to just to get back to their family. And it was it was kind of traumatic because we weren’t, we didn’t we didn’t have any direction from our management on how to allow people to take the cars wherever they wanted to go. And they were yelling at us and telling us that we were terrible because they just wanted to see their families. I remember my brother, the last thing I heard that he was being evacuated, his building was next to the Sears Tower. And we couldn’t get through. And it, every, anyone that I knew that was working in downtown in The Loop, we couldn’t get through to their, their cell phones. All the signals were busy. So, it was confusing. But by 4 o’clock I was a ghost town and from that point moving forward, the air, you didn’t see an airplane in the sky. It was, you know, my income was affected. My mental health was affected. That’s when my anxiety definitely got kicked up a notch or two. You just didn’t go anywhere the same way. You know, your village got bombed. So, you are never going to look at any part of your life the same than you did before.
Veteran 2: September 11th, 2001, affected my life by kind of changing the trajectory of where I was going to go. After school. I knew I had always been interested in the military of one sort or another. Originally, I come from a fire, police family and I really wanted to be an Air Force firefighter in the military. And after September 11th, my dad had known some of the New York firefighters killed and ones who survived and spent hours rescuing their brothers and sisters, as well, as my uncle also went to Ground Zero, to help in rescue efforts. And just growing up in the fire service, it was a very kind of imprinted into my mind, you know, the sacrifice of the first responders on that day. And it was, throughout the course of my high school career, I remember when, when the war in Iraq started. And when we went into Afghanistan, I decided that I was going to join the infantry. I wasn’t going to let other young men and women go die for my freedoms after someone else, you know, tried to hurt so many of our country men and women. And it just, it kind of affected me in that way that it made me even prouder to be part of this country, watching everyone become unified. At the time, no matter really what political side or belief you held, everyone just came together. And that was, well, that was something I was ready and willing to go fight for. So, I joined the Marine Corps infantry. To this day, when I was in Division schools in the Marine Corps, I have a September 11th tattoo on my on my, my forearm of the towers going down, and I got that before I ever made my first deployment. So, I always remember why I was there. What we were fighting for. So, that’s kind of how that day, I wouldn’t say affected my life, but, you know, it certainly weighed in on many decisions in the trajectory of my life.
Will Beiersdorf: So, Mary Beth, so how have the attacks from September 11th, 2001, changed your life?
Mary Beth Beiersdorf: Well, I think it’s changed our entire family’s life. We found out very quickly, that service is hand in hand with sacrifice. The last 20 years, we literally took lemons and made lemonade out of it for the good of our family as well as other military members and their families. And so it really brought the good out, I think, in people. We’ve seen through helping, you know, other families that are in a crisis and really understanding and being more empathetic to their sacrifice with, from service. And, I don’t know, I guess there’s a lot of really good people out there and really got to tap into the good because when you do, it’s really the face of hope. And I think that’s what we all need to see.
Will Beiersdorf: We hope you enjoyed this podcast and thank you for listening and supporting us. For more information on how we can help veterans and their family members overcome trauma, give us a call at 312-942-8387 Again, that’s 312 942 VETS or visit us on the web at roadhomeprogram.org Again, that’s Road Home Program one word.org
About Road Home Program: The Podcast
Veterans have served our country, now it’s our turn to serve them. Road Home’s Will Beiersdorf talks with veterans and their families about their journeys transitioning to civilian life. During every episode you’ll hear from subject matter experts, like Rush clinicians, staff and community partners, discussing resources and services available to veterans to help them heal from the invisible wounds of war. Subscribe, download, or listen to other Road Home Program podcast episodes.
The Road Home Program provides mental health care and wellness to veterans of all eras, service members, and their families at no cost and regardless of discharge status. If you or a loved one needs help, call us at (312) 942-8387 (VETS) or fill out the Get Care form.