Monsignor Philip Hill watched the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center unfold live on TV as the host of a scheduled meeting was running late.
The New Yorker watched the towers turn to ash from his office in the Pentagon.
Minutes later, Hill, the chief of staff for the Army’s chief of chaplains, found himself part of the historic day when a hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon exactly in the room Hill was supposed to be in for the meeting.
“There was a rumble outside in the corridor where we were. And I opened the door, and there was all this black smoke,” Hill said. “The only people we found alive were the people who are trying to climb out the windows.”
Hill attributes his survival to God’s intervention.
Today, Hill leads mass at Punta Gorda’s Sacred Heart Church.
Looking on from the outside of the Pentagon, the debris at the Department of Defense headquarters mesmerized then first-grader Brandon Meddaugh.
“I remember vividly, you know, going down the highway next to the Pentagon for the months in the years after seeing that American flag draped over the Pentagon and it’s just something that’s embedded in your mind, you know, just growing up living near there,” Meddaugh said.
Meddaugh grew up a military brat. Both of his parents are in the Army.
He enlisted in the Air Force at 18 and worked up the ranks to become Staff Sgt. Brandon Meddaugh.
Meddaugh was influenced by the attacks.
“It wasn’t just the families of victims of 9/11 that I had in mind,” Meddaugh said. “It was the families that may or may not have families involved in 9/11, just Americans in general and our allies.”
Today, Meddaugh continues to serve as a police officer for the Punta Gorda Police Department. Meddaugh also helps veterans through the department’s Veteran’s Crisis Assistance Program.
“It’s very imperative that we have these remembrance days annually,” Meddaugh said.
“9/11 was a unique experience and one which I never want to repeat,” Hill said.
Hill honors the thousands killed in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“I remember them always. And then I specifically remember on 9/11. And I say mass for the repose of themselves and for their families who suffered so much,” Hill said.