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Gunnery Sgt. Donald J. Wilmot, a survivor of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, shares his experience with Marines, Sailors and civilians during a ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11 at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point headquarters building, Sept. 9. Wilmot is the administrative chief for Marine Air Control Squadron 2.

Photo by Cpl. Rashaun X. James

Cherry Point memorializes 9/11 during morning colors

15 Sep 2011 | Cpl. Rashaun X. James

Marines, Sailors and civilians paid tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks during a morning colors ceremony, in front of the headquarters building at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Sept. 9.

The memorial began with the raising of the colors and an invocation by 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Chaplain Cmdr. James Goodbow, followed by words from the commanding officer of Cherry Point, Col. Phillip Zimmerman.

“Today is a day to remember those we lost and pay tribute to a generation that has taken up the burden of guaranteeing our nation’s security,” said Zimmerman.

The attendees also had the honor of listening to the personal reflections of a Marine who worked at the Pentagon in Arlington County, Va., during the attacks. As Gunnery Sgt. Donald J. Wilmot took the podium, the solemn expression on his face foreshadowed the graveness of the words that followed. Wilmot, who was a sergeant at the time of the attacks, called upon his memories to paint a firsthand picture of the horror he and so many others witnessed on that day. Wilmot is the administrative chief for Marine Air Control Squadron 2.

“I am both deeply honored and humbled to share my story with you all today,” said Wilmot. “Before that day my priorities were different. I primarily focused on work. It seemed I was always away from my family. For eight years, my family and I never took a vacation or had a weekend getaway.”

Wilmot described heading into work that day as a clear, sunny, ordinary day. To him it was just another day at the Pentagon working as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the plans policies and operations office. Wilmot spoke about what he saw as he walked through the smoke-filled corridors trying to evacuate the building with the rest of the Pentagon personnel.

What has stayed with him to this day is how close he came to being in the section of the Pentagon greatest affected by the attack. “We were supposed to move from our office to the newly renovated E-ring where the plane struck the Pentagon,” said Wilmot.

 “Our move was delayed by a few weeks because there were not enough computer drops and telephone lines installed. As I reflect on what happened, I think about something as seemingly insignificant as not enough computer drops and telephone lines saved me that day. I was one of the lucky ones.”

What Wilmot took away from that infamous day was not only the memory of the brothers-in-arms he lost, but something else that permeates just as much. Wilmot explained that his close-call that day made him reconsider what was truly important in life.

“No matter how busy life gets always make time for the little things,” said Wilmot. “They are what truly matters and they are not guaranteed to be there tomorrow.”

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point