9/11 Heroes Honored In Veterans Day 2021 Video Program
Navy Officer Who Survived Pentagon Attack;
SDFD Fire Chief Who Led Search/Rescue Team at Twin Towers
(Nov. 5, 2021) If then-Navy Lt. Christopher Ludmer of San Diego had been in his usual office at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, he would have been in the exact spot where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west wall of the Pentagon.
Assistant Fire Chief John Wood led a San Diego Fire Department Fire-Rescue Team that spent two weeks on the Twin Towers rubble pile helping local first responders in their search, rescue, and victim recovery effort.
Ludmer and Wood are the principal speakers in an online video sponsored by the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation. The video commemorates the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 in memory of those killed in the terrorist attacks, and honors the many heroes who responded to the tragedy. The video will be posted on the Support Foundation’s website—www.miramarcemetery.org—beginning Wednesday, Nov. 10.
“There were so many acts of heroism, each leading to a sense of our nation’s resilience that we would find a way to persevere,” said Army veteran Sallay Kim, President & CEO of the Support Foundation, in her introduction of the video. “From the losses of that day grew a sense of pride in our country coming together in unity with the response.”
On 9/11, Lt. Ludmer, a Navy lawyer, was in a staff meeting in temporary offices of the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG). When someone shouted to turn on the TV, he saw the World Trade Center’s North Tower burning. Moments later, “as we watched in horror, we saw a second plane hit the South Tower.”
‘A terrible boom’
“Then, I heard a terrible ‘boom,” said Ludmer. “At the same time, the room seemed to lurch slightly, like being rear-ended in a car…It felt like the building shifted somehow.” American Flight 77 had just struck the west side of the Pentagon right where the original JAG office was being renovated.
A “river of khaki, green, and blue uniforms” flowed out of the building as plumes of black smoke spiraled into the sky above the Pentagon. Helicopters whirled overhead, and fighter jets screamed by, their wings loaded with rockets—a combat air patrol over the nation’s capitol.
With the news that another attack on Washington was imminent, everyone took shelter in a natural depression on the grounds. No one was allowed to leave the area for the next 12 hours. After a short respite at home, Ludmer was ordered back to his Pentagon office early the next morning.
“The usually spotless halls were covered in ash, cracking under my footsteps, and muffling the normally loud echoes,” he remembered. Part of the building was still in flames. “As I walked, I looked through the windows into the inner courtyard. The grass was covered with white body bags.”
Crushed concrete, twisted steel
Six days after the Twin Towers were destroyed, Chief Wood and his team got their first glimpse of the huge mound of crushed concrete, twisted steel, and dust-coated debris that were all that remained of the 1,360-foot, 110-story buildings. Wood had worked at the site of many disasters, including Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and Hurricane Sandy on the New Jersey shore, but he had never seen anything like this.
“The sights, sounds and smell of the devastation were overwhelming. It is truly something a person never forgets,” Wood recalled. “We were able to recover many of our fellow humans, bringing closure to families that were devastated from the terrorist event.
“I will never forget a country, and largely a world, that came together as a unified team,” he said. “I will never forget the sacrifices that our veterans and their families have made since that fateful day.”
‘You will never be forgotten’
Greta L. Hamilton, an Air Force veteran, is director of the Fort Rosecrans and Miramar National Cemeteries. “The National Cemetery Administration’s pledge to every veteran interred in our cemeteries,” she said during her Veterans Day remarks, “is that you will never be forgotten.
“I wish to thank not only those who wore the uniform and pledged to support and defend this country against all enemies both foreign and domestic,” she said, “but also to include spouses, children, mothers, fathers, and those who supported military members during their time of service and after.”
In her closing remarks, Support Foundation President Kim said,
“While we will never forget the loved ones lost and the events of that fateful day, September 11th, 2001, reflecting upon a day and era within our history that changed our everyday existence, we will temper it with remembering the brave actions of our first responders, our veterans and their families, the courage and resilience displayed then and in the two decades to follow.”