Seared into our minds, once again, are those images in New York, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, along with faces, lives recounted, words, stories, families, grief, and – recovery. Twenty years since the terrorist attacks of 9-11, and yet – at moments – just yesterday. This is a story of eight Navy heroes.
As the horrific events of 9-11 unfolded, first in the air, then in New York, an elite group of Naval Intelligence Officers tracked events for the Chief of Naval Operations, doubtless focused.
This group, colloquially referred to as CNO-IP, for Chief of Naval Intelligence – Intelligence Plot – was on duty 24-7, focused on understanding what bad guys were doing.
On that day, the eight converged deep in the Pentagon, fourth ring. They gathered with Commanding Officer (CO) Dan and Executive Officer (XO) Vince. With them, professionals Jonas, Darin, Angie, Jerry, Julian, and newly onboarded Brady.
These eight had the conn, ship’s wheelhouse, on active duty, tracking events, trying to understand, disaggregate, and brief Navy leadership. They were famous for “looking around corners,” assessing what we knew, what it meant, thoroughly reviewing – in real time – events.
While many grappled with what was unfolding, this team was in motion, familiar with the mission, internally cohesive, trusted by leaders, trained for crises, top echelon performers.
Dan led the CNO-IP, having been a naval squadron intelligence, then Japan, USS Coronado, and – rather remarkably – a Foreign Service Officer, Pacific: low key, upbeat, no pressure, can-do.
Vince, onetime football force, began as Surface Warfare Officer on the USS Niagara Falls, then intelligence on USS Constellation, Central Command, back to Office of Naval Intelligence. Married, three kids, he was jovial, a walkaround manager, accessible, father a Vietnam vet.
Jonas, Naval Academy grad, football player, powerlifter, began with Patrol Squadron 26, rotated to the Pacific and Arabian Gulf. Big and big-hearted, like Dan and Vince, he was a quiet giant.
Darin, another Academy grad, was a crackerjack, fast with data and smiles, formerly with Carrier Air Wing Seven, USS Eisenhower. He was an unflagging watch officer, ready for what came. His brother, a naval fighter pilot, had died flying.
Angie was distinguished by unswerving professionalism, irrepressible smile, team player, exceptional trainer, always stepping up. She wore a cross, lived her faith.
Jerry was the tech wiz, master of video tele-conferencing, no hitches, connecting those who knew with those who needed to. His passion was family, coaching his daughter’s softball team.
Julian was another professional, quieter, methodical, mission at forefront. Technically inclined, he helped those less so. Brady was new, but an inveterate enthusiast.
So, on this day – as the nation reeled, planes crashed, thousands landed, threats proliferated, they were calm, focused, prying open this mystery in ring four.
Even 20 years later, this group represents – for me – the tip of the spear, leaning forward, seeking answers, navigating in the storm, unremitting sense of duty. To me, that is the hero – relentlessly looking to put things right, unconcerned for himself or herself, about mission.
These eight were the ideal – all-in to protect America, using their unique skills and experience to the outer limit, to get answers as fast as possible, get those answers to Navy leadership for action.
So, what happened? Events fell like dominos, wrong direction. Made no sense – yet that is what happened. Flight 77 pulled from a DC gate at 8:10, wheels up at 8:20.
Islamic terrorists, unable to get the plane down to hit the Capitol or White House, hit the Pentagon. Hitting the Pentagon, 64 onboard died – and 125 inside the Pentagon. Inconceivably, it hit the wedge with CNO-IP, recently in new spaces, penetrated to the fourth ring.
That plane took the lives of Dan, Vince, Jonas, Darin, Angie, Jerry, Julian, and Brady. Intensely focused on solving this mystery, protecting our country, putting everything into answers, they died protecting us, genuine heroes.
Recovery teams found Angie’s cross, her family found two prophetic, uplifting, remarkable pieces of paper in her room. First was an admonition to herself, from the Book of Nehemiah.
Single line, Nehemiah 6:3, kept close by Angie: “I am engaged in a great work, and I cannot go down.” That was her, inspired, resolved, unrelenting professional. Angie was faithful.
Second piece of paper, for 20 years a copy at my desk, reads: “Things I learned in CNO-IP,” and they were eleven in number: “(1) Always give 100 percent, (2) listen, (3) care about each other as individuals, be loyal, (4) do not tolerate sloppy, lazy, or incomplete work, (5) support your boss, think ahead, (6) remember your actions reflect on your office as a whole, (7) always strive to be of service, reject an ‘it’s not in my lane in the road’ attitude, (8) work hard, play hard, (9) laugh, (10) be quick to praise, and (11) be honest.”
So, dominos fell. Her wisdom – and abiding faith – stands, lesson left, in Angie’s hand. I see her handwriting now. Today at Arlington was tough; these are inspiring people. I do not mind telling you, I cried. You see, I could have been there, as I was part of CNO-IP, just was not on duty that day. I boarded a plane in Washington – one that left 45 minutes the flight that hit the Pentagon.
All of 9-11 happened before my plane – headed for Arizona – suddenly landed in Kansas. I drove 23 hours to DC, found friends gone, spaces destroyed, nation at war. Volunteering for active duty, months ahead offered purpose, but the heroes who inspired me – those eight.
I know what they were doing, for all of us. I know their professionalism, love of country, family, humility, ability, and heart. I know what happened, did not happen, burdens imposed.
That is why, in the aftermath of this 20th my mind and heart go to this story, retelling it – for them. Those who died expect much of us. They expect us not to give up on America or our future – and they expect us to defend liberty, security, honesty, and faith – always. Paraphrasing Nehemiah, with gratitude to Angie: “We are engaged in a great work, and we cannot go down.”
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
As we prepare for what promises to be a pivotal year for America, we're asking you to consider a gift to help fund our journalism and advocacy.
The need for fact-based reporting that offers real solutions and stops the spread of misinformation has never been greater. Now more than ever, journalism and our first amendment rights are under fire. That's why AMAC is passionately working to increase the number of real news articles we deliver WEEKLY, while continuing to strengthen our presence on Capitol Hill.
AMAC Action, a 501 (C)(4), advocates to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, the rule of law, and love of family.
Thank you for putting your faith in AMAC!Donate Now