Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Schriever Sentinel

Retired Chaplain recounts Sept. 11 recovery efforts

U.S. Air Force photo/Amber Whittington Retired Chaplain (Col.) Richard Hum recounts his experience during recovery efforts following the Sept. 11 attacks. Colonel Hum was the guest speaker during the Sept. 11 National Day of Remembrance memorial observance in the building 300 auditorium. Colonel Hum was the senior Air Force chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery when the attacks occurred.

U.S. Air Force photo/Amber Whittington Retired Chaplain (Col.) Richard Hum recounts his experience during recovery efforts following the Sept. 11 attacks. Colonel Hum was the guest speaker during the Sept. 11 National Day of Remembrance memorial observance in the building 300 auditorium. Colonel Hum was the senior Air Force chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery when the attacks occurred.

By Staff Sgt. Stacy Foster

50th Space Wing Public Affairs

There are many moments throughout history where everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when that moment occurred.
“For this generation, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 will be forever in our minds,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Greg Woodbury, 50th Space Wing Chaplain.
On the Sept. 11 National Day of Remembrance held across the nation, Schriever men and women gathered in the building 300 auditorium for a memorial observance.
Col. Kenneth Allison, 50th Space Wing vice commander, said the day was full of mixed emotions for him.
“I am deeply saddened by those lost and my heart goes out to the families,” Colonel Allison said. “However, I celebrate their lives, and I’m proud to serve with guardians of freedom and justice who work hard every day to ensure an attack like this never happens again.”
Retired Chaplain (Col.) Richard Hum was the guest speaker for the observance. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was preparing for a funeral as the senior Air Force chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery, just minutes away from the Pentagon. He shared his experiences from that day with the audience.
“Someone ran up to us and said something is happening at the Pentagon,” said Chaplain Hum. “When we arrived, you could see the smoke rising to the sky.”
The roads around the Pentagon were filled with abandoned cars as traffic backed up and people tried to make their way out of the area, Chaplain Hum said.
The scene at the Pentagon the next day was just as chaotic as Chaplain Hum and others began coordinating recovery efforts.
“We set up around the Pentagon and lived in that ‘tent city’ for 14 days,” he said.
Part of Chaplain Hum’s responsibilities was to counsel the young firefighters being sent inside the Pentagon to recover the bodies of the fallen.
“Some of these young men were 18 or 19 years old,” he said. “There was no way they could be fully prepared to see the things they were about to see, but we did our best to reach out to them to ensure they had the help they needed.”
As the days went by, family members of the fallen began to arrive at the scene.
“The families would all just stand together and look at the destruction, some crying, while others held out hope that their loved one would be found,” Chaplain Hum said.
More than 2,900 people lost their lives on Sept. 11, making it the largest single attack on American soil.
Those include firefighters and emergency responders who lost their lives during recovery efforts.
“I am amazed at the strength of these individuals who went into these environments without regard for their own lives, in order to save others,” said Chaplain Hum.
Jesse Compton, Schriever Fire Department, rang a ceremonial bell in memory of those firefighters lost as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. The ringing of the bell is a tradition of the fire service known as the “tolling of the bells.” The bell was rung in three sets of five chimes in honor of firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
The names of those lost on 9/11 were then displayed while a moment of silence was observed.
“While we pray that a tragedy such as this never happens again, we celebrate the lives of those lost,” Chaplain Hum said. “The strength, dedication and patriotism displayed by all Americans on that day will always be ready when called upon to do what is necessary.”

To Top