Ed Grisamore: Midstate memories of 9/11

gris@macon.comSeptember 11, 2011 

Maj. Cole Hogan is buried at Arlington National Cemetery on a hill near a stand of oak trees.

In the distance, not far from the banks of the Potomac River, is a view of the Pentagon. It is where Hogan’s life came to an end the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, less than a month shy of his 41st birthday and his second wedding anniversary.

It’s a long way -- 555 miles on the odometer of the old Wagoneer he once drove around Macon -- from his grave site in Arlington to the marker that bears his name at Riverside Cemetery.

The marker was placed next to the grave of the father he was named after, Wallace Cole Hogan Sr., who died in December 2002.

This morning, the public is invited to the cemetery for a commemoration in honor of Hogan and the other fallen heroes of 9/11.

The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m., marking almost 10 years to the minute when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.

There will be speeches, a color guard and military honors rendered with a 21-gun salute. Brig. Gen. Larry Dudney, who survived the Pentagon attack, will participate in the ceremony. Hogan’s mother, Jane Hogan, will attend, along with his widow, Pat.

“People tell you things will get easier, but they don’t,’’ said Jane Hogan. “You don’t just feel the loss on 9/11. It’s an everyday thing.’’

Suzanne Doonan, the managing director of the Historic Riverside Cemetery Conservancy, said an ecumenical group of clergy has been invited to “offer prayers and remembrances of global unity and compassion.”

A poignant photograph of Hogan’s room at his mother’s home, taken by local photographer Walter Elliott, will be displayed at the ceremony. It also is printed in the program and is being used on digital billboards around town. (More information is at www.macon911.com.)

Three weeks before the attack, Hogan’s offices had been relocated to the section where the plane crashed. It was at the point of impact.

In August, Jane Hogan and other family members and friends traveled to Fort Lewis, Wash., where a service supply building was named in Hogan’s honor.

Hogan’s military career in the Special Forces included a three-year stop at Fort Lewis from 1993-96. He was captain of a 12-man Operational Detachment A-Team.

Hogan was Macon’s only casualty in the Sept. 11 attacks. First Presbyterian Day School’s Class of 1978 placed a marker in his memory on the school’s campus. An oak tree was planted and dedicated across from City Hall on Arbor Day in 2002.

A park was dedicated to Cole at the end of his old neighborhood on Overlook Avenue.

Jane Hogan is touched her son has been remembered by those in the community where he grew up.

She hopes they never forget.

* * *

Army Brig. Gen. Larry Dudney has served his country in Iraq, where he was deputy commander with the Georgia 48th Brigade, and in Afghanistan, where he was joint task force commander of a coalition of more than 11,000 soldiers from 20 nations.

He has been battle-tested and hardened by the realities of war.

Still, there are those days that lurk and linger, cloaked in sadness.

Sept. 11 is one of them.

Dudney, who enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1977 and was commissioned in 1978, spent 16 years as an assistant football coach at Macon’s Tattnall Square Academy. He left in 1998 to pursue a full-time career in the military. Three years later, he was working at the Pentagon as a military strategic planner on the staff of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he watched television images of the World Trade Center in smoke and flames after a terrorist attack.

There wasn’t much time to mentally process what was happening. Thirty-four minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon was attacked by another hijacked plane, crashing less than 200 yards from Dudney’s first-floor office.

He remembers being hurled through the air and lying there, confused in the rubble. He could hear screaming in the darkness, the strong smell of jet fuel in his nose and smoke burning his lungs. Death was all around him, as he crawled to safety and rescued a young woman from another office.

He had always heard the old wives tale that your life passes before your eyes at a time like that.

“If it did,’’ he said, “I never saw it.’’

Dudney has been director of the joint staff and joint task force commander of the Georgia National Guard since April 2010. He is headquartered at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta.

He got married four months ago and still keeps a home at Lake Sinclair. It is his refuge, a place so peaceful and quiet he can hear himself think.

Of course, he cannot escape the memory of 9/11. Even when he wants to block it out, he can’t. It is always in the shadows, like a stealth bomber.

“I might be watching TV, and something will trigger it,’’ he said. “I have a hard time with it because it stirs up the memories. I can’t watch it. I have to look away. It’s too close and personal.’’

Every year, he receives an invitation from the Pentagon to attend a wreath-laying ceremony as part of the 9/11 remembrance.

“I have never gone to it,’’ he said. “Maybe one day.’’

He has only been back to the Pentagon twice in the past 10 years, once for a briefing before being deployed.

“Every Sept. 11, I try to find some quiet time and go off by myself and reflect,’’ he said. “I think about friends I lost and wonder how their families are doing. I think about the survivors.’’

He is one of them.

* * *

Macon’s Brian Kunzelmann took a taxi to the World Trade Center the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He was at a training seminar with 287 financial advisers for Morgan Stanley.

He spent the first hour in a meeting, then took a short coffee break. He remembers looking out the window of the 61st floor and seeing paper flying through the air. He thought it was a little strange for a ticker-tape parade in the morning.

When he returned to his seat, members of his group were told they would have to evacuate the building. Nothing was said about an airplane hitting the north tower. The man two seats down from him turned and asked Kunzelmann if he smelled jet fuel.

The elevators were stopped, so they began walking down the stairwell. He was on the 51st floor when the second plane hit some 20 floors above him.

“The building rocked and shook, and dust was flying out of the walls,’’ he said. “We didn’t know what was going on, but I was praying to God to get me out of there safely.’’

When he reached the ground, there was glass and debris everywhere.

“I remember seeing a large pool of blood,’’ he said. “They routed us to the east, away from everything. I looked up and saw the smoke and flames. I tried to call my wife (Jan), but there was no cell phone service.’’

It took him two hours to walk back to his hotel near Madison Square Garden. He spent the rest of the day shaking as he watched the horrific aftermath on TV.

For years, he harbored a hatred of the Muslim terrorists who orchestrated the attacks.

“I was angry. I wanted to retaliate,’’ he said. “I thought we should just nuke them. Then I realized we shouldn’t set fire to the whole planet, because the people responsible were small in number.’’

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or gris@macon.com.

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