UNC ROTC students reflect on Sept. 11

Video by Zach Evans / The Daily Tar Heel

Midshipmen of the UNC Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps discuss their recollections of the September 11 attacks.

Sara Eagle, a UNC Air Force cadet third-class and sophomore, has childhood memories of falling asleep on the balcony of her uncle’s apartment in the shadow of the twin towers.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the apartment complex collapsed along with the World Trade Center.

Luckily, Eagle’s uncle had moved. If the attack had occurred a few months earlier, the story would have been different.

Eagle said the attacks on that September morning played a key role in her decision to join the Air Force.

“The military protects, defends and prevents these things from happening,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of an organization dedicated to protecting the people I care about.”

Major Gregory Duffy, who oversees the Air Force cadets at UNC, said his department has seen a slight decrease in enlistments since Sept. 11.

“Congress sets a maximum size for the Air Force, so while a lot of people might want to join, we can only take a certain number,” he said.

Duffy, who began his military career in 1993 as a member of the ROTC program at the University of Virginia, said he grew up five miles away from the Pentagon.

Five days before Sept. 11, he moved from the United States to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He and his wife were doing laundry when the attacks occurred.

Duffy said the Ramstein Air Base played a crucial role at the start of the war, including contributing to humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.

He added that the students who decide to join the ROTC program at UNC are highly qualified students who he thinks the military needs the most.

“These are top kids from all walks of life interested in serving their nation who know they are going to deploy,” Duffy said.

The desire to serve his country has been ingrained in National Guard specialist and sophomore Mitchel McGee since childhood, he said.

“I’ve always been on a path to serve in a military position of some sort,” McGee said.

He said he watched the second tower collapse on a televised projection in an auditorium in his small private school in Durham.

“I enlisted for more personal reasons than being attacked on American soil, but I felt like it was the right thing to do,” McGee said.

While both of McGee’s grandparents served in the military, Eagle is the first of her family to join the Air Force.

“If I was in the military that day,” she said, “maybe I could have been in a spot where I could have helped.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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