NAS Jax Senior Chief Petty Officer recounts serving off the coast of New York a day after 9/11

Senior Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Langevin is an air traffic controller at NAS Jax.

“We are a 24/7 facility so we’re always open. Here if its Saturday night 11:30 p.m. my sailors are here landing airplanes,” Langevin said.

But 20 years ago, he was serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

He was less than a year into his Navy career when two planes struck the World Trade Center.

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“That image. That stayed with me forever. I had visited those buildings when I was a child. For them not to be there anymore and just the smoke and everything happening. It just it felt like a movie. It didn’t feel real at all,” Langevin said.

Instead of going back home to Norfolk, Virginia, the USS George Washington headed north.

“That ship moved faster than I’ve ever felt an aircraft carrier move and by the morning of the 12th we were right off the coast of Long Island in Manhattan.”

Langevin said that’s when his crew went into “mission mode,” providing much needed humanitarian aid and medical supplies to downtown Manhattan.

They launched airplanes to monitor the airspace to make sure nothing else happened.

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Even through all the chaos and confusion, a sense of unity emerged.

“In our worst time we could be together against someone who is trying to hurt us,” he said.

Two decades later, Langevin shared with his children the significance of 9/11 and why it’s not just a chapter in the history books.

“I think about my brothers and sisters in the military that I’ve lost during the campaigns and reflect on their sacrifices and just be thankful that I’m still here. That I still have the opportunity to continue and that mission that was instilled in me 20 years ago,” Langevin said.

Langevin told me initially he was going to get out of the military after getting his degree and seeing the world, but 9/11 changed him and he’s now proud to be leading the next generation of men and women through the Navy.