Lifestyle People


Written by Matt Hollingsworth

On the morning of the 11th, Johnny Payne was stationed at Andrews Airforce Base near Washington D.C. He had just finished a meeting with the staff when someone told him a building had been hit by an airplane. And suddenly, all the world had changed. He was watching the horrific news coverage when he got a call from a higher-up saying they needed to put the whole base on lockdown.

Johnny called his wife Peggy and said, “Turn on the TV.”

“Why? What’s up?” she asked.

He repeated: “Turn on the TV.”

It took a moment after she turned it on to realize what she was seeing—one of the Twin Towers was burning. Listening to the reporters, Peggy asked herself why a plane was even flying over Downtown New York. As a pilot’s wife, she knew they weren’t supposed to fly over cities like that. She was asking herself how a mistake like this could have happened when suddenly the second plane hit.

Every moment of this day would be seared into their memories.

Twenty-two years later, when asked how he had felt, Johnny Payne said, “I’d been in the Air Force, at that point, almost 19 years. We had gone through the Cold War, and supposedly, we had won the Cold War. And then we went off to fight for Kuwait, and we won that war. We freed the Kuwait people and hamstrung Saddam Hussein… So, I thought, maybe I’m going to be leaving this place a in little bit better shape to show for my 20 years in the military. And then that happened, and… now I’m questioning are we really any safer now than we were during the Cold War?” But in the moment, what filled him was fury—he wanted to find the people who did this.

Likewise, Peggy recalled, “You realize at that moment, we’ve lived history.” At the time, Johnny was only a year away from retirement, but suddenly, he and Peggy found themselves facing an uncertain future—no one can retire during times of war. In the end, he would only have to stay one extra year, but at the time, they had no idea what would happen.

At the end of the day, Johnny was allowed to go home. As he waited for the traffic to clear, he went to the top floor of the base and looked towards Washington D.C. Ten miles away, plumes of smoke rose from the Pentagon.

About the author

Matt Hollingsworth

Matt Hollingsworth is the chief writer for the Bingham Group where he writes articles for Monroe Life, Farragut Life, and McMinn Life magazines. He has a degree in publishing from Belmont University and has previously written content for Aspire—Clinton, TN's largest park. In his spare time, he writes science fiction with Christian themes.

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