Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remembering 9/11: Chief Musician Rob Holmes and Lt. j.g. Geordie Kelly

All week, we'll be sharing stories from band members about where they were during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Chief Musician Rob Holmes: I was in the old dispensary having blood drawn when a hospital corpsman ran into the room to say that a plane had just crashed in to one of the world trade center towers. I am reminded about the tragedy of 9/11 every time I visit medical on the Navy Yard. I don't know if this qualifies as a unique experience. I had only been in the Navy Band for a year, but I quickly became keenly aware of the heightened anxiety toward the security of our nation and the inevitable changes that could happen to a person on active duty.

Holmes plays baritone saxophone in the Commodores jazz ensemble.

Lt. j.g. Geordie Kelly: I was stationed in Naples, Italy, with the 6th Fleet Band. My wife was at the University of Oklahoma satellite office on board Naval Air Station Capodichino, where I went to meet her at the end of the work day (we were six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time). We started to watch internet news (the quickest way to get news overseas) around 2 p.m. about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, and immediately thought it was a hoax. Around that same time, the base went to [force protection condition] delta and was locked down very tightly; no coming or going, and it was at that point that I knew this was no hoax. We sat together in disbelief and watched everything unfold online. We couldn’t leave to pick up the kids from after-school care, and we couldn’t get to phones to call home.

Everything changed. Band travel was immediately frozen, the base began to ask tenant commands for auxiliary security force personnel, and every gate to every American military installation was manned with heavily armed Italian army forces with armored vehicles, rocket launchers and automatic weapons. You couldn’t help but feel patriotic in the months that followed. One of the most positive memories I have from that was that ALL of the foreign nationals from all of the NATO forces we served with were so incredibly empathetic; they were as devastated and sorrowful as Americans were. You could feel such a strong camaraderie with the forces from the other nations, which was a pleasant side effect stemming from one of the most heinous crimes ever committed.

Kelly was, until recently, Concert/Ceremonial Band department head. He is now director of the U.S. 7th Fleet Band in Yokusuka, Japan.

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