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Today in
S.C.V. History
March 4
1940 - NYC premiere of "The Marines Fly High" starring Lucille Ball, filmed in Placerita Canyon [story] Marines Fly High

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Thursday, Sep 11, 2014

darrylmanzerThis isn’t about the Santa Clarita Valley. Not today. It is something I’ve been working on for some time.

Where were you on this day 13 years ago? Folks tend to remember important dates and events by what they were doing and where they were doing it.

For example, when President Kennedy was assassinated, I was a student at Placerita Junior High. I had been at the same school during the Cuban missile crisis.

I was in a submarine at sea when so many other crisis situations developed. A couple of them I didn’t know about until we returned to port.

When Mount St. Helens erupted, we were living in Bremerton, Wash. Lucky for us, the prevailing winds kept the ash off of us. Only once in a subsequent minor eruption did we see a light dusting of ash.

We were also there when high winds sank the Hood Canal floating bridge between the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.

Earthquakes in California and hurricanes in Virginia. Severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings in Virginia, too. Almost forgot – snow and ice storms in Connecticut.

During my time in and with the Navy, I had many assignments. If there was a submarine at a naval base anywhere, I was there at some time. I also worked a few surface ships.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working at Naval Station Norfolk as the engineering and planning manager for the base from Norfolk Naval Shipyard. I had just returned to the office after checking on a problem on a submarine when a sailor came running in and told us the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. It was on TV in the next building. We ran out of the room and went next door.

Gathered in rooms and offices, everyone was watching the attack – only we didn’t know it was an attack until the second plane hit. And then the Pentagon and then the plane in Pennsylvania. Would all of these ships be next?

In short order, fighter aircraft were overhead. Don’t know if they were Navy or Air Force. It just felt sad to have them there. But it was also comforting.

We were ordered to get every ship we could out to sea, armed and ready to fight. Many of the ships were in some intense repair and maintenance periods. Engines missing, holes cut in the sides to remove machinery, ammunition not loaded. Systems not ready.

Sailors and civilians of the Navy turned to and started patching up ships to get them to sea. Some could leave that day and did. We knew we had a long, hard job ahead of us. Because of security, workers and sailors had trouble getting on the base. Many parts were over at the naval shipyard about 10 miles up the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth.

I was in the same place for the first Gulf War. Even in that rush, ammunition was loaded at anchor away from the piers or up the York River at the weapons station. This was the first time I saw ammo loaded on the piers except for submarine torpedo loads.

And the ships got underway. Carrier groups with cruisers and destroyers. Submarines. Tankers (oilers), supply ships, any and every ship that could get underway did so for the next five days.

Some didn’t get out to sea. The repairs in progress were so extensive they couldn’t budge. Extra security. It was a hellish five days to that point.

We slept little … ate what and when we could (Navy chow is still good) … and showered maybe twice in those days.

When the ships returned, we got them ready to go again. Many of those ships have been away a lot more since 9/11. By now, many of those ships are decommissioned and have been cut up to make razor blades and new cars.

For the new ships and remaining ones, deployments are longer and harder. The sailors and civilians who repaired them then are still on the job for the most part – only now they do it with a little more pride and sense of purpose.

The only recognition was in knowing that we got them underway. Ready to fight. Ready to defend this country. Pretty good recognition if you ask me.

Most of what you’ve just read I wrote around 2005 when I retired. I updated it and put it in my notes on Facebook in 2011. Now you’ve read the events of the day as I saw it when it happened.

I do remember one thing as we got ships out to sea and out of harms way (or maybe into it): As the ships departed, we felt good about them moving, yet not quite as safe. It was strange. Most of us wanted to be on the ships and submarines, ready to take the fight to the enemy. Being ashore at that time made us feel like we weren’t quite a sailor.

Now we cannot forget. My folks had Pearl Harbor. We have 9/11. When will we learn? Did we learn?

I did.


Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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1 Comment

  1. I was asleep…when my eyes opened…my thought was…omg…world trade is on fire…my uncle was a miami fireman…and I used to live in east village…so I knew this would be catastrophic to fight…fell back asleep…when my eyes opened again…I saw a jet fly into the other building…I hit the floor…grabbed a cup of coffee…before I finished my coffee…both buildings disintegrated…into dust…no one who saw this will ever forget the utter anguish of that moment…ever…

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