September 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Remembering gay co-pilot of Flight 77

Sept. 11, 2001, is one of those days that I will always remember where I was and what I was doing. For those of my generation it joins the memory of Nov. 22, 1963, the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot. That afternoon I was a college student working in the rare books section of Donnell Library in New York. On 9/11, I was working in my office at the National Association for Gifted Children on 17th and L streets, N.W., in the District. I arrived at the office at 8:30 and heard the report about the first plane hitting One World Trade Center. I then turned on the small TV in the office in time to see the second plane hit Two World Trade Center.

Our small staff sat transfixed and like the rest of the world speculated about what was going on. Then shortly after 9:30 it was reported that a plane had flown into the Pentagon. The ensuing reports and pictures of the fire made it very personal to all of us in the office as one of the women working for me had a brother who worked in the Pentagon. We sat talking to each other and reassuring her that all would be OK until she finally was able to get word two hours later that her brother was not hurt.

At noon we left the office. The streets downtown were emptying out and some of the staff walked to the metro while I walked up Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle and spent the afternoon sitting with friends at Java House. It seemed totally surreal as we sat in the sunshine with coffee, watching the smoke rise from the Pentagon, and still not really knowing what had happened or what else would happen.

As the days wore on and people began to come to grips with the attacks we learned more about the hijackers. There were many public memorial services and funerals in D.C. including those for the school children and their teachers who had died on Flight 77, the plane that hit the Pentagon.

Because of my involvement with Mayor Anthony Williams’ administration I became the intermediary between the family of David Charlebois, the gay co-pilot and 1st officer on Flight 77, and the administration as plans were made for his memorial service at Saint Matthews Cathedral on Sept. 18. I knew David and his partner Tom as did so many others because they were a part of the LGBT community in the District. It was only after that memorial service that life really began to move on.

As I drafted this remembrance on Aug. 23, my chair and the building started to shake from what I was to learn was a 5.9 earthquake. But until I knew that, in an eerie way, the memories of 9/11 came flooding back.


1 Comment
  • Why is this article in the “opinion” section? It’s void of opining. Perhaps The Blade should add another category, e.g., Home, National, Local, … and Soft/Light Reminisces.

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