Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sergeant First Class Jose N. Cruz, Platoon Sergeant, 311th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs)

From: The Role of the Army Reserve in the 11 September Attacks: The Pentagon

INTERVIEWER: What were you doing on 11 September when terrorists attacked the
CRUZ: I was working. I am the UA [unit administrator] for the unit. That is my full time job. I am also a reservist. . . .
INTERVIEWER: What was your reaction when you first found out about the attack?
CRUZ: I was surprised. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a movie or something. I arrived at Fort Buchanan, and when I went in they wouldn’t let me out. They closed all the gates. So I knew right there that something was going on.
INTERVIEWER: What was your first response to the attacks? You’re the unit administrator. What were you thinking?
CRUZ: I immediately called my unit, because I was away. I called my battalion and asked them what was going on. They told me that it was the same way where they were. The gates had been locked and no one could get out.
INTERVIEWER: How long did those procedures last? Do you know?
CRUZ: That was about 9:30 [a.m.], and I got to leave Fort Buchanan at about 1700 hours that afternoon.
INTERVIEWER: How did the attacks have an immediate affect on your life as far as being mobilized? When did you first hear of being mobilized?
CRUZ: Those attacks were on 11 September. The next day I had people calling the unit asking for names, numbers, how many people were ready to go. They were looking for information about the unit. On the 14th, there was a rumor we were deploying. On the 15th, it was a reality. We were gone.
INTERVIEWER: What did you do to prepare?
CRUZ: I knew that I would probably go somewhere. So I started preparing my uniforms and started getting everything ready, just in case anything happened. On the fifteenth, they told me I was moving, so here I am . . . .
INTERVIEWER: How about the Washington, D.C. community?
CRUZ: They are great! I am really surprised at Washington, D.C. When we first arrived, there was complete support for us. We were riding in the back of the deuce-and-a-half and people were clapping their hands and saying thank you. . . . That really makes you feel good. . . . When they said we are mobilizing, I was the first to raise my hand. I said, “Hey I’m going.” There was a group of eighty-five that left in the beginning. I was a part of that group. We volunteered to go . . .

That night [15 September] we started the first shift. We started working at night. When we got to the north parking lot, the FBI was there. . . . There were actually all kinds of agencies there. . . . They took us into a small tent and briefed us on what to do. . . . At that briefing, the FBI told us what they were looking for. We understood that night that the FBI was running the show. . . . They were looking for papers, passports, things like that . . . .
INTERVIEWER: When you first saw the Pentagon, what was your reaction?
CRUZ: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had watched the news and read the newspaper at home, but being there and seeing that big hole, it’s a totally different feeling.
INTERVIEWER: During these two phases of the operation, sifting through the rubble of the north parking lot and going through the personal effects, what was the high point and did you have a low point?
CRUZ: When I was in the north parking lot, I saw credit cards with names in the rubble.
Coming into the depot I’m still seeing those names, but now I’m seeing pictures. . . . I’m relating
faces to those names that I saw at the Pentagon, and that’s real hard. I’m one of the oldest guys
here. I have the experience because I was in the Persian Gulf and there my primary mission was personal effects, but it was hard.
INTERVIEWER: What was the most memorable moment?
CRUZ: The whole thing gave me pride, being there and working there. It feels good that I came here to the States looking for people. I know the family members appreciate that. The same thing with the personal effects. At the depot, when the family members or friends came to pick up the personal effects, they said thank you. They get to have back something that that person really loved and they love that...

I remember there was a general that came into the personal effects depot. He was outside worried because he lost his medical records. For us, being in the military, we know how important those are. When he came into the personal effects depot and one of the soldiers gave him a big ziploc bag with his medical records inside, he just jumped hysterically. He was so happy. I felt happy for him because I know what medical records mean . . . .
INTERVIEWER: Is there anything that you would like to add?
CRUZ: We are here and there have been rumors that we may be going somewhere else. To be honest, most of the guys want to go to New York. They don’t want to go home yet. We have the feeling that we can help out there. . . .

Sergeant First Class Jose N. Cruz, interview by Sergeant William G. Miller, tape recording and transcript, 26 October 2001

No comments: