September 11 survivor will get MARRIED on the 20th anniversary
Veteran who survived the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and saw 9/11 as a ‘day of gloom’ every year is set to get MARRIED on the 20th anniversary so he can ‘turn it into a day of love’
- U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Akers was working at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, when a hijacked plane hit the building
- Every year after, the anniversary was ‘a day of bad, traumatic memories’ that he dreaded; in 2002, he kept waiting for another plane to hit
- But on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, he will wed Aleisha Hagele, whom he proposed to last summer
- He said he is reclaiming the day as one of ‘celebration’ and are ‘going to make this moment something else’
- They will, however, acknowledge the tragedy with a moment of silence and an ‘in memoriam’ table
A government employee who survived the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, dreaded its anniversary for 19 years — but this year, he’s reclaiming the day by getting married.
U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Akers was at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 when a hijacked American Airlines flight flew into the building, killing all 64 people on board and 125 more inside.
Every year after, he the anniversary was ‘a day of gloom’ that he was spend in silent reflection. But this year will be different: On September 11, 2021, Akers is set to marry Aleisha Hagele.
‘We’re reclaiming that day and turning it into a day of love and a day that deserves celebration,’ he told the The State Journal-Register.
Making it his: U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Akers survived the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and dreaded its anniversary for 19 years — but this year, he’s reclaiming the day by getting married
Tragic day: He was at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 when a hijacked American Airlines flight flew into the building, killing all 64 people on board and 125 more inside
At 8:37 a.m. local time, he was working in a fourth-floor storeroom, holding frozen meat, when he felt was seemed like ‘a violent earthquake’
On that day in 2001, Akers was working as the galley supervisor at U.S. Secretary of Navy Gordon England’s executive dining facility.
Earlier that morning, he’d heard about each of the two planes hitting the World Trade Center.
At 8:37 a.m. local time, he was working in a fourth-floor storeroom, holding frozen meat, when he felt was seemed like ‘a violent earthquake.’
‘The air was sucked out of the room and any door that was open slammed shut,’ he recalled.
Fire alarms began to go off, and it was ‘chaotic’ as those in the building were evacuated via an exit route most of the evacuation doors around them shut. They walked out into the Metro before going out through the public entrance, taking an hour to get out of the building.
It wasn’t until he and his colleagues made their way to one of the nearby hotel conference rooms that had opened to employees that he learned what had happened.
Remembering: Fire alarms began to go off, and it was ‘chaotic’ as those in the building were evacuated
Destruction: Earlier that morning, two planes had hit the Twin Towers in New York City
He spent some of the days following on the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship where he volunteered with food service for first responders at Ground Zero in New York City.
Like many who survived the attacks both at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Akers traumatized by what he experienced, and says that every year after, 9/11 anniversaries were ‘days of dread.’
In 2002, he was still at the Pentagon, then working as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s personal steward. On that first anniversary, he spent almost the whole day staring out the window, dreading that another plane was coming.
‘I was waiting for something to happen, thinking there was another shoe that (would) drop,’ he said. ‘If they did it on Sept. 11, 2001, they could do it on Sept. 11, 2002.’
September 11 continued to be ‘a day of bad, traumatic memories’ for years after.
But this year is destined to be different: On Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack, he will marry his fiancée.
Turning it around: September 11 continued to be ‘a day of bad, traumatic memories’ for years after — but now he will share it with Aleisha Hagele
‘We’re reclaiming that day and turning it into a day of love and a day that deserves celebration,’ he said
Akers met Hagele, 39, in a social media group in 2019, and the two got engaged last summer.
After agreeing on a September wedding, they eventually decided to reclaim the 11th as a happy day.
But though it will be a celebration, the couple will still acknowledge the tragedy of the anniversary in several ways.
Their wedding officiant will lead a moment of silence at the beginning of the ceremony, and their ‘in memoriam’ table for lost loved ones will also have a place for the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
‘We do intend to acknowledge [the day] for what it is, but also to make sure we are making our day the central focus and that it is a celebration of our love,’ Akers said.
‘We’re intentionally attaching something to this day,’ he added. ‘We’re going to make this moment something else that’s worthy of celebration.’
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