Illinois Soldiers and Airmen Remember Where They Were 9/11 Print
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Written by readMedia   
Thursday, 15 September 2011 07:18

SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/08/2011)(readMedia)-- By 2nd Lt. April Hawes, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

Before the planes hit and before the towers crumbled, it was a routine Tuesday morning for four Illinois National Guardsmen. One Soldier was teaching in his classroom while a future Illinois Soldier was listening to her teacher in biology class. Across the world, an Illinois Airman arrived in Germany for annual training. Another Airman, then with the New York National Guard, was on Long Island when disaster struck.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Carlock

When Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Carlock, of Astoria, joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1993, he did it because he wanted to continue his family heritage of military service while getting his education. Soon after, he became a high school teacher in Astoria.

September 11, 2001 another teacher told Carlock what was happening on the east coast. He immediately turned on the TV in his classroom to see it for himself.

"I stopped all of my planned lessons for the day and made all of my students watch everything on the news," he said. "I urged them to remember that day as it would be a pivotal day in American history and they are to witness it."

Carlock, who is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 44th Chemical Battalion in Macomb, said he was instantly shocked and angered when he witnessed the 9/11 attacks. He then realized, as an Illinois National Guardsman, he needed to be prepared to possibly deploy stateside or abroad because of these attacks.

Carlock eventually deployed in 2004 to Iraq with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Macomb.

Since he has joined, witnessed those terrorist attacks and deployed, Carlock said he is proud of his service in the Illinois Army National Guard.

"I believe that we have proven ourselves as a professional organization that deserves the same respect

that the Active Army receives," he said. "From our efforts and professionalism, I think the National Guard is

looked at in a much more positive light compared to the years prior to Sept. 11, 2001. I feel very proud that I have been able to serve at such a crucial time."

Sgt. Sara Minder

Like Carlock, Sgt. Sara Minder of Springfield, with Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield, watched the events of that historic day on TV while sitting in a high-school classroom.

"All I could do was sit and stare at the TV. No one in the classroom said a word," she said. "I think we were all hoping the first plane was just an accident. Seeing the second plane hit made me realize that this was intentional."

Eighteen months later, she joined the Illinois Army National Guard.

Her reason for joining had a dual-purpose. She said she wanted to be like her cousin and best friend, Jason, who was a Marine. She said she also wanted to do something after she felt the fear of her country on 9/11.

Just two months after she enlisted, Jason was killed in a helicopter accident in Iraq.

In August 2003, she left for basic training and advanced individual training, which she was pulled out of a week early for a deployment. She returned home for four days and then travelled to Iraq with the 232nd Corps Support Battalion in Springfield. She spent her 19th birthday and the first anniversary of Jason's death overseas.

While she remembers the fear she felt 10 years ago on 9/11, Minder said she hopes her service in the Illinois Army National Guard will prevent her fellow Americans from experiencing the same fear in the future.

"I feel a stronger sense of duty to my country," she said. "I do not want another generation to have to feel the fear that we felt on that day."

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Stevens

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Stevens, of Elk Grove Village, was on foreign soil 10 years ago when he heard about the terrorist attacks. He had just landed in Germany for annual training as the first sergeant with the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron attached to the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield.

A cashier at the base exchange was the first to tell him a plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He then watched German TV and listened to the radio to learn a second plane crashed into the South

Tower and yet another plane crashed into the Pentagon.

"(I felt) anger and rage that someone would attack America and kill innocent civilians," said Stevens, who is now assigned to the 183rd Air Operations Group in Springfield.

While he felt anger and rage, Stevens said Airmen around him were also angry, shocked and confused by the terrorist attacks. Since he joined the Illinois Air National Guard in 1985, Stevens said he had always been proud to defend his country, but after 9/11 he saw his service in a more serious light.

"I always took my military career serious, but this made it more real and important," he said. "The level of seriousness about (what) we do struck home."

Senior Master Sgt. Kim Piskacek

Senior Master Sgt. Kim Piskacek, of O'Fallon, walked into chaos when she went to work at the Office of Student Affairs at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y. on that Tuesday morning.

Fellow employees gathered around the TV while the phones rang off the hook with frantic New Yorkers on the other end asking what they should do. The college president soon announced classes were cancelled and urged students not to travel toward Manhattan.

As others went back to their desks, Piskacek stayed glued to the TV.

"It fell," she told her co-workers.

"What fell?" they asked her.

"The tower," she said.

They didn't believe her. They didn't want to believe her; until they came back to the TV to witness the smoke for themselves, she said.

At the time, Piskacek was assigned to the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing, which soon became a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. The 105th lost two Airmen that day, one of whom she knew. Piskacek also said many 105th Airmen lost family and friends from the terrorist attacks.

It wasn't until 2004 when she said she realized how significant 9/11 was to all Americans, not just New Yorkers.

She said she was at an Air Force noncommissioned officer academy when the subject came up. She heard everyone else recall the day, just as she remembered, and said she was surprised to hear everyone was just as affected as she was.

"As New Yorkers, we didn't think of anything outside of New York City," she said. "It's so weird when you're that close to New York City and then you hear everyone else's account."

In 2004 she transferred to the Illinois Air National Guard. She then deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 with the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, where she is currently assigned.

Since her military career began with the Air Force in 1989, Piskacek said 9/11 brought a new meaning to her service.

"I've always been proud to serve, but Sept. 11 made it more personal," she said.

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