Peoria Journal Star

September 10, 2006

Home from the Pentagon
Peorian leaves Washington, D.C., area following attacks to raise daughter

 

 

Peoria native Andrew Myers was a 27-year-old Army sergeant working at the Pentagon when terrorists flew a commercial jet into the side of the building on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 125 co-workers and 59 jet passengers.

He escaped through the smoke-filled hallways and helped carry two of the injured to safety before the area was evacuated for fear of a second attack. Since then, Myers has moved back to Peoria to raise his young daughter near his parents. He works as a police officer at Bradley University, where he enjoys a camaraderie with his co-workers that reminds him of his Army days.

"The memories are still there. I still think about that stuff every day. I'm still wondering why I'm around," Myers, now 32, said in a recent interview. "Everything happens for a reason. I don't know if it was for me to come back here and be a policeman. But I work with a lot of good people. My mom and dad are glad that I'm back, that's for sure," said Myers, who

is a 1992 graduate of Metamora Township High School.

Myers will be at Bradley University Monday to talk about his experience during the terrorist attack. He will speak at a 4 p.m. observance program in the Michel Student Center ballroom.

For the first five months after the Pentagon was struck, Myers repeatedly dreamed he was riding in a low-flying plane, jumping out just before it crashed. He has the dream now only once in a while, usually after he's been reading about the attacks.

"I'm constantly reading 9-11 Web sites. It's not an obsession. I just want to gather as much information as I can about it," he said.

He recently saw the Oliver Stone movie "World Trade Center" with his parents. He said he was curious about how he would react - "if it had been long enough or not long enough.

"I thought the movie was excellent. A lot of people don't like it, but being a 9-11 survivor, I thought they did a good job showing the courage of people when faced with situations like that."

Still, it left him sad and angry that the Pentagon victims haven't been similarly memorialized.

"Are we ever going to see a movie about the Pentagon? No, it's not going to happen. It kind of angers me that people don't know much about it. I think people need a little bit of closure there - at least the country does," he said. He also fears Americans are becoming complacent.

"Five years later, do you see any flags flying on cars anymore? No. People aren't patriotic anymore. They got used to being back in their own little world. Everything's fine and safe, but a lot of us feel it's going to happen again. It's just a matter of time."

Myers said he doesn't think the government has done enough to secure the nation's borders from terrorists.

However, he feels he's still playing a role in the fight against terrorism while working at Bradley, where a Qatari national was enrolled in a graduate program before being arrested in December 2001 and later declared an "enemy combatant" by President Bush. The student allegedly was sent by al-Qaida to help carry out post-Sept. 11 attacks.

"Being a cop now, it's given me the opportunity and knowledge to be able to look for certain things even better now," Myers said.

While he has moved beyond that emotionally difficult first year, he didn't return to the East Coast when a close friend recently was married. The friend's first fiance was killed in the attack.

"To be honest with you, I don't know if I can go back. It was just so tough afterward. Maybe sometime, when my daughter is older," he said.

His own marriage may have been a casualty of the terrorist attack. He and his wife were divorced shortly after they moved to Peoria in late 2002.

"I think it could have been related. At the time, I was working seven days a week, 14-hour shifts. We had to work seven days a week until we could get another office in the Pentagon," said Myers, who worked overtime after the attacks ordering supplies for the Army.

There wasn't much time left to spend with his wife and baby.

Now, Myers is making up for that. He has custody of his daughter, McKenna, 5, who has just started kindergarten.

"She loves to sing, and seeing her the way she is every day makes me so glad I made the choice I did to come home," he said. "I did my military obligation. I put in nine years, two months and 25 days. It makes me proud that I did that. But I also have an obligation to my family and my daughter, number one. I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to make that choice and come home.

"She calls me her 'big hero' because Daddy's a big cop now and Daddy used to be in the Army," he adds with pride.

Even as he enjoys time with his daughter, it reminds him that many military families are separated because of the war in Iraq. Myers said he believes it's time to bring them home.

"I'm sure I speak for a number of military people who are over there now, when I say it's been long enough. It's time to come home. It's a shame. I really sympathize with the families. I wish there was more a common guy like me can do. Unfortunately, all we can do is pray for them and for their safety until they return home," he said.

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com.