"There's been so many lives that have been forever changed by the events of that day," said Second Lieutenant Hanna Born.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 9, 2021
When American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, about 140 infants and toddlers were playing approximately 200 yards away in the Defense Department's Child Development Center. Among them were sisters Hanna and Heather Born, whose mother, retired Brigadier General Dana Born, was at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling at the time. Twenty-one years later, the Born sisters are both in the U.S. military, committed to serving their country. According to CBS News, Second Lieutenant Hanna Born—who was just 3 years old at the time of the attacks—graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2019 while her younger sister Heather is now a midshipman in the Naval Academy's class of 2023.
Speaking to the network in a recent interview in Washington, D.C, Hanna revealed that she still has some fragmented memories of the 9/11 attacks. "I was in the daycare center playing and dancing with some of my classmates," she recalled. "We were playing with those dance ribbons, and then the next thing I can remember was kind of being in the hallway. I began to feel sensory overload, especially after exiting the building. Because that's when you really saw just a groundswell of people coming out of the building."
A new generation stands up, carrying the legacy of those before. Thank you for your service.https://t.co/e0ogKQ0Ugb— American Veterans Center (@AVCupdate) September 7, 2021
"Obviously, you had the noises from the fire alarms, you had basically every type of emergency vehicle, the sirens from that, and you had jets and helicopters from overhead making noise, and on top of that, just a really acrid smell from the burning jet fuel and smoke," Hanna remembered. She explained that service members soon arrived to evacuate the daycare as some of the staff were elderly and needed help moving the infants and toddlers from the building. The infants were loaded into cribs and carried to a park next to the Potomac River.
On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the U.S.— WRTV Indianapolis (@wrtv) September 11, 2019
Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center, a third plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. pic.twitter.com/7vYH1YPWER
"I don't think we know really any of the names of anyone involved," Hanna said. "Despite not getting any public recognition for what they did that day, I just hope they know how their actions have inspired my sister and I and how we hope to pay it forward." Unlike Hanna, Heather has no memory of 9/11 since she was just 4 months old at the time. The sisters' father—a retired marine who had previously been stationed at the Pentagon—took them to a hill overlooking the Pentagon in the days following the attack to help them understand and process what had happened and to show them the ongoing recovery efforts.
Their mother, Brigadier General Born, revealed that in the aftermath of 9/11, Hanna would spend hours drawing pictures of her experience that day as a way to understand what happened. "We sat by her side the entire time to support and comfort her while also answering questions as she attempted to 'process' exactly what happened," said Born. "The more she drew, the less anxious she appeared, since she was gradually piecing things together from that horrific day that was difficult for even adults to comprehend."
Hanna and Heather Born were in the Pentagon's daycare center on Sept. 11, 2001. Twenty years later, they are carrying on the legacy of the members of the military killed in the attack. Find other 9/11 remembrances on our special page: https://t.co/4xvqqlv2tD pic.twitter.com/NQIQRnkYlz— WNCT (@wnct9) September 8, 2021
Although no children at the daycare center died or suffered injuries from the attack on the Pentagon, the Child Development Center—which was housed in a building on the Pentagon campus, across from where the plane crashed—closed in 2004 over safety concerns. The traumatic attacks and their upbringing on military bases eventually inspired the sisters to follow their parents' footsteps into the military. "There's been so many lives that have been forever changed by the events of that day and everything that has ensued afterwards, so I think for us, it's just constantly about remembering and figuring out what we can do to best honor them," Hanna said.