Academy cadet shares 9/11 story
Story by Jennifer Spradlin, Sept. 11, 2019
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Eighteen years ago, in the midst of the 9/11 attacks, terrorists slammed a hijacked Boeing 757 into the Pentagon.
Hanna Born, now a cadet at the Air Force Academy, and her infant sister Heather, were in daycare when the plane tore through the west side of the building. Hanna was 3 years old.
Service members from inside the Pentagon rushed to the daycare and evacuated the children. Born described how they carried cribs with multiple infants for half-a-mile and guarded the children until military police officers could get on scene.
Her parents had recently completed their Pentagon service tours and were not present for the attacks. It would be several hours before they were reunited with their young daughters.
“I’m so grateful that even in the midst of such a tragic and horrifying event they came and took us to safety,” she said. “I continue to be inspired by their resiliency and professionalism and so many others that day who asked to go back into the Pentagon to help others.”
Born represented her family and the Air Force at the Colorado Springs 9-11 Commemoration at Memorial Park today.
During her speech, she described the wailing sirens and jets overhead as well as the acrid smell of burning jet fuel and the thick, black cloud of ash spreading for miles down the river. She talked about the terror she felt over fire alarms for years afterward and the way images of the attack still triggered memories from that day.
“As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to use these memories as a source of motivation rather than fear,” she said. “Because of [9/ 11] I understand what it means to serve. It means running into danger rather than away. It’s about pride, strength, resolve and an unwavering commitment to the freedoms and people we swear to protect and defend.”
Born is interested in aviation and would like to fly rescue missions for the Air Force.
Her mother, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Dana Born, former Academy dean of faculty described a moment some days after the attack when her husband, Tim, took the girls back to the Pentagon to show them that the fires had been extinguished and the many people working together to repair the damage.
“Her sister started to become upset and cry and in the picture you can see Hanna comforting her, and she’s been that way ever since – someone to intervene and try to make things better,” she said. “It was a transformative event for everyone around the globe. Hanna’s story reflects how she used tragedy to find what she is passionate about, and we couldn’t be prouder.”
Hanna Born comforts her sister Heather at a visit to the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks.
Hanna and Heather Born are recognized at an Air Force Academy Football game.