Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remembering 9/11: Lt. Cmdr. Mel Kessler, Musician 1st Class Kenny Ray Horton and Chief Musician John Parsons

Retired Lt. Cmdr. Mel Kessler: Going into rehearsal the morning of 9/11, we had just heard the news of the first plane going into the World Trade Center. During rehearsal we heard a big boom which turned out to be the plane going into the Pentagon. A few minutes later Cmdr. Gambone came out and interrupted rehearsal to tell me and then the band about the Pentagon being hit and the second plane going into the WTC. Horror, anger and disbelief were my first thoughts. We immediately took a break and watched the television coverage of the horrific attacks. In quiet disbelief we watched and prayed for those who died in the attacks and their families.

Kessler was assistant leader of the Navy Band, and played trumpet in the Concert Ceremonial Band. He is currently director of the National Concert Band of America and the Vienna Community Band.

Musician 1st Class Kenny Ray Horton: I reported to Navy Musician "A" School in Little Creek, Va., on Sept. 8, 2001. I was in the library watching the "snowy" TV and thought I was watching a movie. The Sgt. said, "No, I have the news on..." Then it hit us something bad was up. After that, we started receiving word for lock-down.

Horton sings and plays guitar in Country Current.

Chief Musician John Parsons: It was my first official day with the Commodores and I was driving to the Navy Yard for a rehearsal to prepare for our fall tour. I usually listen to WTOP (a local Washington, D.C., radio station) for at least a few minutes to get traffic, but for some reason decided to listen to music instead. I was also trying to contact a colleague and found it strange that I had no cell service for the entire trip into the Navy Yard. Approaching the yard I noticed an unusual amount of police, fire and rescue activity. [I parked my car outside the yard and] noticed several people standing by their cars looking in one direction. Almost at that exact moment I saw a shipmate. I asked him what was going on. He pointed in the direction of the Pentagon and said, "See that smoke?" That's the Pentagon burning and we're under attack." I watched in complete horror and disbelief at the smoke billowing from the distance. A few moments later the Navy Yard went into lockdown and they wouldn't allow anyone to leave or enter. Civilian employees started to panic as they were afraid and wanted to leave. Some started screaming at the gate guards to let them leave. The lockdown lasted for about forty minutes before they started to let people leave. Unable to get to the band room or communicate with anyone [by cell phone], I decided to head home. The city became gridlocked almost immediately and it took a very long time to get home.

Parsons is the drummer in the Commodores jazz ensemble.

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