Maj. Gen. Jennifer Glidewell, a military nurse stationed at the Pentagon during 9/11, left a piece of an apple from her son’s breakfast sitting on the kitchen counter for a long time after the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, because it was the last time the world appeared "normal."
“I really wanted to throw it away,” said Glidewell in a recent interview. “But I just left it on the table where it was.”
A few days after 9/11, she stood looking at the apple wondering where her uniform was. When she remembered her uniform was still on the grounds of the Pentagon, she knew life would never be the same.
“That day we really saw the best of humanity and the worst,” she said.
Her day on 9/11 began with a class about how to schedule patients at the DiLorenzo Health Clinic inside the Pentagon. She overheard chatter in the waiting room about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York.
“All I was thinking was that some poor pilot really messed up,” she said. All of the sudden, an officer showed up at the clinic and said something terrible had happened and we had to “get out now.”
“There was just something about him and the look on his face that made us start moving everyone out,” she said. “There were no alarms, but something seemed real.”
That “something” real was American Airlines Flight 77. It had just crashed into the Pentagon on the opposite side of Glidewell’s clinic.
She had not heard anything or felt anything when the aircraft punched a 90-foot hole in the side of America’s military headquarters.
"It never occurred to me that the Pentagon would be a target for terrorists,” she said.
She remembers a patient coming out from the side of the building where the plane hit, with his clothes ripped up and his skin “just hanging off.”
Glidewell sprung into action and turned the outside courtyard into a triage area for the wounded. High-ranking military officers worked along side nurses, janitors, and civilians to help the wounded.
“There was no rank that day,” Glidewell said.“There were just people taking care of people. I think we all forget how important we are to other people," she said.
Ten years have passed since the young nurse was forced in the center of one of the nation’s worst terrorist attack in history.When she reflects back on 9/11, the tears still come easily when she thinks about all that was lost that day, including the feeling of security she felt living in the “greatest country in the world.”
Now, in the quiet hours of the day, she thinks of the world that existed before her little boy sat down to eat an apple the morning of 9/11.
“I did my job that day, but that does not make me a hero,” she said.
She said the first responders, the medics who worked for her at the courtyard triage area, and those who helped people they did not know are all amazing.
“They are the real heroes of 9/11”
The stories of heroism like this have played a role in our understanding of the attacks of 9/11. Honoring those heroes as a society has provided a measure of healing for a grieving nation.
Leaders say they represent what is best about our country – the willingness among our people to make immense sacrifices to help one another in crisis and defend our national ideals of liberty and justice.
Survivors often refer to scripture while thinking back to the days after 9/11. It is stated by Jesus in the Gospel of St. John: “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
(Source of interview: 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs, United States Army)