Newsline , Society

America – We Cannot Go Down

Posted on Monday, September 13, 2021
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles

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.” 

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Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
2 years ago

Then we Must do these:

Pray for Revival
New Spirit
New Blood
Purge the Old
Change the System
Purge the Old thats useless IE teachers unions.
Rebrand, rethink, redo
Seek OUT ideas, visions.
Or We Stay As Is

2 years ago

I will agree with you that, when properly focused and led by the right leadership, the United States can bounce back from almost any adversity to set things right. However, we have neither today, as you must surely agree. Instead of focusing on the very real threats from multiple, credible foreign sources, as well as from a growing subversive, domestic threat to the very foundations our nation was built upon, we are instead pre-occupied with being “woke enough”, re-writing our history and re-making our economic and social models to accommodate fringe leftist groups in love with the Marxist ideology of governance.

While it is good to remember the events that immediately followed 9/11 20 years ago, we should also focus on what a nation being intentionally distracted and and led by incompetents has resulted in just a few weeks ago. The contrasts would hopefully get at least some of the American people to think about the ramifications of making poor choices at the ballot box and their apathy in general.

I seriously doubt those 8 Pentagon planners you wrote so eloquently about could have envisioned the United States essentially surrendering 20 years later to a rag-tag bunch of illiterate goat herders armed with automatic weapons and now holding hundreds of American citizens hostage. Yet that is what incompetent leadership has delivered on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. There is an obvious lesson in there for the people of the United States, if they are truly paying attention.

2 years ago

“America – We Cannot Go Down”
The sad truth is, that American can, and is going down. Corruption, greed and feckless leadership have brought this nation to the brink. It’s coming to the place where just a little push will send us, forever, over the precipice we have brought ourselves to.

Self inflicted, yes. But no less lethal. Just ask the Romans.

2 years ago

An amazing article, Mr. Charles.

2 years ago


2 years ago

America IS in the process of “going down” only who would have thought it would be by “American enemy within”? … Greedy, corrupt people and corporations thirsty for ultimate power over the masses, the citizenry! … We ALL must turn to OUR ultimate benefactor, GOD ALMIGHTY TO SAVE US by harnessing the People to Rise Up and Save Themselves by fighting back against the Evil Satan-led forces that have taken over the leadership of today’s so-called Democratic Party now led by Communists! … I AM READY, AS ARE MANY … JUST CALL UPON US!!! … LORD, DELIVER TO US THE NECESSARY & COMPETENT LEADERSHIP TO VICTORY!!!!

Joyce Gibson
Joyce Gibson
2 years ago

What an interesting story. These 8 were truly heroes and our Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are full of such heroes at this time. As I write this, I am thinking of the retired military personnel who are trying to get the Americans out of Afghanistan because our President and the Defense Department won’t.

2 years ago

Will, you are absolutely right – on all counts, and perhaps the most interesting part, based on my own reading, is that those who preceded us, back the founding, encountered all of this, the cynics, the vested interests, selfishness, sarcasm, family and friends walking away from them – because standing tall for these enduring principles is hard – and … they kept at it. They did not give up. Ben Franklin could not persuade his own son not to be a Tory, and at the split, the two men never spoke again. So many between then and now have had to say – no, I am not going to give up on this great nation, and those who – before me – did noit give up. That is our time, our moment, and with clam and deliberation, but also resolve and fortitude, this is the expectation others would have of our time. Thank you! RBC

Robin Walter Boyd
Robin Walter Boyd
2 years ago

There are so many untold stories or heroism during the time we were brutally attacked by hateful people who murdered American citizens simply because they did not like the way we live. These are extreme conservative extremists who put their beliefs before the lives of other human beings. These are the fascist radicals who believe they have some sort of right to dictate to others how everyone should be allowed to live.
We must eradicate the world of extremists, whether they be to the far right or far left of any ideological scale. These are the intolerant fascists of the world, and we must stop them from gaining the power they currently hold that allows them to kill so many others in the name of their belief that they are somehow god-like, and have some sort of right to judge and control the rest of us.

2 years ago

One of my classmates was stationed at the Pentagon. He and his group had just finished a meeting five minutes before when the hijacked flight crashed though the meeting room. Some of the group suffered minor injuries but that did not stop them from starting search and rescue immediately, fighting fires and rescuing personnel as they found them. Another classmate was the senior watch officer at CINCLANTFLT, Norfolk, VA when realizing that this situation was an attack the US, sent out the orders for all naval vessels on the East coast to get underway from their ports and be at combat conditions until further notice.
Now, if this event were to happened today, would the response be the same?

2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this with us. I’m sure it was not easy. I am very grateful we did not also loose you on that day. May God bless and keep you.

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