Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Maurice Bease, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron squadron gunnery sergeant, in attendance at a recruit graduation aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on April 6, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. R.J. Driver)
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. - Twelve years have
passed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, enough time
for the rising generation who were too young to remember the tragic
events to enlist and serve.
That tragic day, planes crashed
into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and in the fields
of Virginia killing nearly 3,000 people, mostly civilians.
United Airlines Flight 93 crashed before reaching the terrorists'
target in Washington, D.C., because of the heroic actions of
passengers aboard that plane.
Gunnery Sgt. Maurice Bease, the
aviation operations and training chief for Headquarters and
Headquarters Squadron, not only remembers the events, he remembers
Then a sergeant, Bease had been working at
the Pentagon for several months as the Headquarters Marine Corps
lead flight scheduler, coordinating airlift for executive personnel
within the Marine Corps.
“On September 11, it was business as usual,” he recounted. “We
found out about the plane that had crashed into the first tower over
the phone. We were under the impression the crash was an accident.
We heard about the second crash later, and we then realized it was
not an accident but an actual terrorist attack. I wanted to go
outside and get a breath of fresh air because it was a lot to take
Shortly after exiting the building, he witnessed an event
that would change the world.
“I could hear the buzz
of an aircraft. It was loud like a fly-over. I looked up
expecting to see a jet, but I knew there were no fly-overs
scheduled for that day. I saw a white airliner streaking
over Arlington National Cemetery toward the Pentagon. It
appeared to come right where I was standing. I jumped onto
the ground and the aircraft crashed into the building. There
was a fireball coming out of the top of the building
followed by black smoke. I ran inside and told everyone that
a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and everyone
immediately ran out.”
Flight 77 was overtaken and crashed into the western side of
the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., it was the third attack that day.
Bease met with his coworkers, all of whom escaped the
As first responders arrived, Bease
and his fellow service members returned to the rubble and
took an active role assisting firefighters and paramedics.
Marines are renowned for their preparation for
combat and camaraderie. Bease said such character traits are
difficult to fully understand during peace-time military
service. His personal involvement at the Pentagon
enlightened him on how dedicated Marines are to each other.
“It made me have a strong love for the brotherhood that
we have,” he said. “So many Marines in different locations
did what they could to help. It showed me that Marines help
each other in more than just combat. It goes beyond the
Marine next to you in a fighting hole. Marines take care of
each other regardless of the location or situation. It's not
something that can be taught. They were regular Marines who
worked in a support capacity who stepped up and saved
Of the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day, only
125 perished at the Pentagon, 55 were military personnel,
none were Marines. Many of the offices on the western side,
including Bease's, were under renovation and their offices
had been moved to other areas, taking them away from the
point of impact.
“We had the angels of Marines and
God watching over us. We had no Marine casualties at the
Pentagon,” he said.
On the twelfth anniversary of the
attacks, President Obama spoke at the Pentagon for a Sept.
11 memorial to comfort the nation and those most closely
“Together we pause and we pray and we give
humble thanks - as families and as a nation - for the
strength and the grace that from the depths of our despair
has brought us up again, has revived us again, has given us
strength to keep on,” he said.
“We pray for all those
who have stepped forward in those years of war - diplomats
who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year
in Benghazi, intelligence professionals, often unseen and
unheralded who protect us in every way - our men and women
in uniform who defend this country that we love.
“Today we remember not only those who died that September
day. We pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who
have given their full measure since - military and
civilians,” he said. “We see their legacy in the friendships
they forged, the attacks they prevented, the innocent lives
they saved and in their comrades in Afghanistan who are
completing the mission and who will have helped to end this
By USMC Cpl. Timothy Norris
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