September 11, 2011, marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating attacks that forever changed the course of American history. Our members reflect on the impact that day had on them both personally and professionally. Patrick Remigio, an immigration enforcement agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was in New York City the day airplanes struck the World Trade Center twin towers. Remigio, currently vice president at large of AFGE National Council 118-ICE and president of AFGE Local 2859, recalls being there on that fateful day.
On September 11, 2001 as the attacks on the world trade center occurred, my partner and I were at a hotel in New York approximately 20 minutes drive from ground zero. We were both preparing for our return flight to Arizona after completing a prisoner escort on commercial aircraft.
As I walked through the hotel to the front desk to check out of my room, I saw the first televised images of tower number one burning. I watched the news for at least 15 minutes before it really sunk in and I fully understood what had happened and that America was under attack. Seconds later the second plane exploded as it impacted tower number two.
The 9/11 incident had an immediate impact on my life. Flights out of JFK airport were cancelled and it would be a week before my partner and I were able to return home. The hotel we were staying in filled with both New York residents and travelers fleeing from the ground zero area or stranded in New York because of flight cancellations. During that week I spoke with many people who had sought refuge in the hotel. I listened to the experiences of people who were near ground zero when the attacks occurred; people who still worried about unaccounted for friends, family members and coworkers who were either in the twin towers or in some capacity dangerously near the towers when the attacks occurred.
The level of emotion was incredible. The fear and uncertainty regarding future attacks, grief for lost or missing loved ones, questions regarding who attacked us and why, as well as anger and outrage and an overwhelming desire for justice. It is an experience that will remain with me for a life time.
The impact of knowing that an attack on American soil had occurred in the heart of New York City, where so many key components of our cultural and economic systems reside, was for me a realization that our world had changed forever and that a new era for the United States had begun. It is an experience that I will never forget. Professionally I now realize more than ever before the importance of the unique mission performed by the employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in protecting our nation and its citizens from events like those that took place on 9/11.
My condolences to all who lost friends or love ones during this disaster and my eternal gratitude to all who responded to assist at the towers as well as those who answered the call to defend our country both at home and abroad.