Charlotte Hessey

Non Veteran

Military Affiliations
  • Veteran Spouse

  • Veteran Parent

MY connection to 9/11
  • I had a family member join the military after 9/11

Where were you when you first heard about or saw the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

I want to start by saying that there were three places impacted by 9/11. Flight 93 could have been significantly worse had its 43 passengers not decide to thwart the intentions of their hijackers. Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA, which is four and a half miles from where I lived. I woke the morning of 9/11 with my phone ringing -- it was my friend. She was very adamant about me turning on my television. I did and watched in utter horror at what was happening -- and then even more so as I watched the second plane crash into the Twin Towers. I woke my husband up and we watched everything unfold together. Our home shook -- nothing out of the ordinary as there is always mining going on. Within minutes, we begin to hear fire whistles going off -- again, no big deal. But for some reason, the sirens continued on and on. We went outside and realized the emergency vehicles were heading towards Shanksville or Stoystown. Just as I entered my home, I heard on the television Matt Lauer from the TODAY Show interrupt Katie Couric and Jim Miklaszewski and say, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but we just got word that an airplane has crashed at the Somerset County Airport." I knew for a fact that this was untrue because that airport was half a mile from my home. Planes coming in for a landing flew so low that many times you could clearly see the pilot. I was terrified, not knowing what to do. I went up to my friend's house in Somerset just so we could cry together. It wasn't until about 10:45am that our local station, WJAC, intercepted the national news and reported that the air traffic controllers out of Johnstown had been in contact with the hijackers for a very short time. They watched as Flight 93 made a hard sharp turn and then a few minutes later just disappeared from their radar. A reporter from WJAC was onsite where "something went down" according to a report from someone in a nearby salvage yard. I went home around 3pm to find a message on my answering machine. It was my boss at the Hampton Inn in Somerset. I was instructed to bring several pieces of identification. The FBI out of Greensburg was coming to vet us. Our retinas were scanned, we were fingerprinted, and background checks were done. We signed non-disclosure agreements and had to ask almost all of our hotel guests to please leave due to a national emergency. Within days, we had the FBI, NTSB, CIA, FAA, and other federal agencies at our hotel. Within days, most of them were gone with the exception of the FBI. They stayed for about six weeks. That first night, hours after the crash, my co-worker and I were just watching the news and several FBI agents came into the lobby with their arms loaded with laundry, asking where they could find the nearest laundromat. We looked at one another, and without hesitating, we said we'd take care of it. We wrote their room numbers on post-it notes, and those post-it's followed that laundry from basket to washer to dryer. We did laundry almost non-stop. I can't even begin to describe how humbled and honored we were to do that. Every night, we received a call from an Agent Mueller. He called every night to ensure that the new round of agents coming in would have rooms. We assured him that as soon as a group of agents left those rooms would be instantly booked. It wasn't until months later, upon receiving a book, that I recognized his name. My friend said it was impossible that I knew this person, and I stated I spoke to him nightly at the Hampton Inn. She was shocked, and upon reading who he was, I was even more shocked. Agent Mueller wasn't just another FBI agent -- he was the head of the FBI!

How did the events of that day shape your life and inspire your service to this country?

9/11 affected me to the core. I was terrified of what was happening in New York and Washington, but even more so with what was happening in my own backyard. Our town -- Shanksville, PA -- was thrust into the headlines because of the crash of Flight 93. Even though our small hometown was already friendly, we somehow became a kinder, gentler, and more heartfelt town. We hugged more, cried more, laughed more, and LOVED more. My oldest son was a senior that year. He joined the Marine Corps three days after he graduated high school. 9/11 is still a very difficult day for me, as it brings back memories and feelings. I am humbled that I was able to assist the FBI and the families of those who perished on Flight 93 following the plane crash. So, when people begin talking about New York and Washington, I am compelled and speak out for Flight 93.

What are you excited to contribute to your community, however you define it, for the next 20 years?

Recently, I began working at our county's veterans service office. I am honored to be able to assist those who fought and continue to fight for our freedoms. My father, brother, husband and son are all veterans. I am so very proud of what they have done. I honor them by assisting other vets with their needs.