436th SFS Airman reflects on service, 9/11

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marco A. Gomez, Mauricio Campino
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“I remember feeling anxious, scared and angry. I didn’t know if my mom was alive or dead.”

Justin Viens, 436th Security Forces Squadron protective services and special operations officer, recalls the fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He was in his first class of the day at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, when he first heard the news of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Viens’ mother was employed by a company that had an office in New York City. On that morning, Viens knew his mother had a trip planned there and immediately attempted to get in touch with her.

“I tried calling my parents but couldn’t get a hold of them because all the phone lines were jammed up,” Viens said. “In fact, my mom's New York office was in the World Trade Center. They lost nearly everybody in their office in the tower when it fell; it hit her and our family really hard.”

After hours of attempting to make contact, he was able to get through to his mother and learn she was safe. His father, a law enforcement officer in the Alexandria Police Department in Alexandria, Virginia, responded when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

“9/11 really changed my perspective on life and what it meant to be an American.” said Viens. “That’s the main reason why I joined the military. Though it was never intended for me to stay in for a full 20 years, I knew I wanted to stay in law enforcement.”

Viens has served 19 years in law enforcement while active duty military, reserve, and now, as a civilian at the 436th SFS. He continues to serve while carrying on the memory of the loved ones that were lost on 9/11.

“[A lesson we learned from 9/11 is] we’re all Americans regardless of your ethnicity and cultural backgrounds; that's what we have to stand for,” said Viens. “The truth is, we stand stronger united.”