ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified,” said Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, during a dedication speech on Dec. 31, 2001. “We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.”
September 11, 2001, changed America forever. On this day, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and more than 6,000 people were injured when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon came under attack.
For many, the attacks on this fateful day lit a flame within them. A light that led them down a path to join the United States’ armed forces and bring the fight to the nation’s enemies. One of these individuals is Capt. Samuel Rosa, a pilot assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron.
“I grew up in and lived in New York my whole life and was in college when it all started unfolding,” Rosa said. “In the beginning I thought it was just a freak accident. When it happened, everyone began leaving class and started following the coverage as it came out. Then the second plane hit.”
Rosa spoke about the day as if he had just experienced it, explaining how uncertainty hung in the air and what followed when fear clutched the hearts of New York.
“It became a panic, no one knew what was going on and they didn’t know if their families were safe…if anyone was safe,” Rosa explained. “No one knew what was going to come next. Was it a terrorist attack? Was it going to be a full on war? So everyone panicked.”
While the city itself went into a frenzy, the news slowly spilled out onto the rest of the country.
“We were in class when we heard the news,” said Cindy Rosa, Captain Rosa’s wife and an Air Force veteran. “Classes just stopped -- no one could believe it was happening. There was just…sadness across everyone’s faces. It was an unexplainable feeling.”
After the attack, Rosa began to seriously consider doing something about the situation. The tragedy of that day ultimately led to his decision to enlist in the military and ensure this never happened again.
“I come from a family with very little military affiliation and growing up in the city it was always an option, but was not very popular amongst my peers,” Rosa said. “But after this, everyone just wanted to know what they could do to fight back. Shortly after, I was looking at the Air Force and was wondering to myself what I could do to play my part.”
Rosa was originally enlisted until he earned his commission in 2012. Now as a pilot in the 34th BS, Rosa is fighting terrorism across the globe in an effort to stop future attacks against the U.S., against innocent people, and against the world. He explained seeing the firsthand effects of what terrorist attacks can do, it makes him take pride in what he is doing and reconfirms he is doing the right thing.
“Being married to someone who was born and raised [in New York], I can see the pride he has not just for his country, but for where he grew up,” Cindy said. “Thankfully, his family wasn’t hurt, but as for his extended family…New York is his family. That day everyone came together as one big family.”
Rosa described how the city, a once bustling metropolis that never sleeps, came to a screeching halt.
“New York is very fast paced -- everyone just passing by each other with not much common courtesy,” he said. “But that day, everyone took a pause. People realized we need to bond together to overcome this horrific event. That will always be burned in my mind -- how close New Yorkers became; how everyone understood to recover we need to come together as one and never allow this to happen again, to anyone.”
Thousands were affected by the disaster that day as America stood still. The day everyone came together as one and spoke a single phrase; Never Forget. It’s a saying which rings in the hearts of people across the globe, calling to remember these pages of history, and to tell its tale.
“It’s important we don’t forget,” Cindy said. “We tell these stories to ensure our children know that we were there, and how it impacted our lives. It’s a significant part of U.S. history and our children should know that when daddy isn’t home, he’s out there defending us and making sure no one has to suffer like this ever again.”