September 11th Reflections with Gen. John P. Jumper, VMI Class of 1966
Where were you on 9/11? It is a question that the older generations can easily recall. However, as time has passed, many adults are now too young to remember the tragedy of that day. I had just turned two years old, so my experience of September 11, 2001 is filtered through what my parents remember. My dad was working in Arlington, Virginia that morning. Before news broke about American 77 hitting the Pentagon, he saw the fire engines racing towards it on I-66. The skies above our house, usually noisy with planes on their way to land at Ronald Reagan National Airport, grew silent. Throughout the entire afternoon, there was only one time my mom heard a plane fly over; she assumes it was Air Force One returning to Andrews Air Force Base from Florida.
My parents told me their stories because of the 20th anniversary of the attacks. I think it is important to hear from people who remember the attacks because it helps us understand it better. General John P. Jumper, VMI Class of 1966, had been Chief of Staff of the Air Force for less than a week on 9/11. He helped adapt the Air Force to its new mission in the War on Terror after that fateful day. It was an honor for a handful of cadets, including myself, to meet with him and learn about his experience during the attacks.
His speech began by stating how 9/11 began like many other days, with clear blue skies along the East Coast. This made the idea of a plane crashing into a building so confusing. It also allowed for a clear picture as the world watched the second plane hit, and everyone could understand the magnitude of what was happening. That day began a change from our peer-focused Air Force of the Cold War and 1990s to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. Now that the war in Afghanistan is over, we must be ready to change and adapt again to our new peer adversaries. General Jumper stressed the importance that we are not just the Air Force, but a part of a larger Defense Department. This means we must be ready to work together with our sister services to provide a coordinated defense of everything we hold dear. Although the newest generation of enlisted and commissioned servicemembers may not have been old enough (or alive) to remember 9/11, we can still learn lessons from it. General Jumper has high hopes for the future and that we will be able protect this country from these evolving threats.
Cadet Sean Whearty '22
Air Force ROTC Detachment 880