Remembering 9/11: Portland FBI Linguist Patrick

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Portland FBI linguist Patrick describes how he responded to events.

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Hello, my name is Patrick.  I am a Japanese linguist with the FBI, and I’ve been with the Bureau since 1999.

So, I lived in central New Jersey, and I would commute into the city about two hours one way, every day.

On the day of September 11th, I commuted in as usual with my group of commuting buddies that always sat at the same spot on the same train. I believe I got in a little before 8 o’clock and was settling into work, and then we heard and felt a boom.

We didn’t find out until about, I think about 10 minutes later, maybe 15.

We saw the hole in the north tower, and people were saying what a horrible accident. And I kept looking at the hole, and I said that’s too centered to be an accident. A friend of mine said, “let me see.” I turned away to let her get close to the window and then everybody screamed, and I turned back around and saw the second plane coming through. At that point I said we have to get out of here now.

I eventually got home – I think it took me about four hours instead of the usual two. When I got home, I had 10 messages on my voicemail. For every one that I answered, two more came in.

I started to go back to work in 26 Federal, but not too long after that I was called out to work in the command post that they had set up.

It was in a parking garage – fortified. It had a machine gun nest on top – over top of the door.

And, I found myself in the unique position of working on stuff that changed what I saw on the evening news.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little nerve racking, but, in some ways, I think it was also the best therapy. You know one of the best ways – at least for me - to heal was to be able to go back to work and do something that directly affected what I had just gone through.

We all know… we’ve all seen Lenny Hatton’s picture on the Wall of Honor. Everybody knows he died at the World Trade Center that day. But, we learned about it on a more granular level. He was helping people get out of the building. We know that when the towers started to come down, he got out of the building, and he dove under a firetruck to try and avoid the debris, and it crushed him.

Dennis Bonelli was our chief security officer – our CSO – from the point, probably well before I came on board.

So, apparently over the course of that exposure he inhaled enough to suffer complications and eventually die.

I haven’t watched a single memorial service or remembrance that’s been put on related to 9/11.

After having the one part of New York that I knew like the back of my hand wiped off the map and losing one of our regular commuting buddies, I felt like I had lived it enough that I didn’t need to relive it.

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