Borne The Battle #162: Air Force Veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder


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On September 11, 2001, Air Force flight surgeon John Baxter showed up to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to a full load of patients and completing physicals–just like any other day.

A red flower sits atop of every bench to remember the fallen on Sept. 11, 2001.

A red flower sits atop of every bench to remember the fallen on Sept. 11, 2001, during the Pentagon Memorial Observance Ceremony in Washington D.C., Sept. 11, 2018. Defense Department photo by Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Halfway through his morning while getting his next patient, he saw that a civilian airliner had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.

While with the patient, Baxter said he noticed the background noise in the Pentagon changed. It seemed quieter than usual. Then, he heard shouts. He opened his door and saw people running and shouting, and smoke in the hallway.

At first, Baxter didn’t know if there was an explosion, a fire or some other event. Despite the unknowns, he assembled his team of flight surgeons, a nurse and medical technicians. They grabbed medical kits and traveled as a group. Their emergency plan was to meet up with other medics at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Clinic.

Then they heard the news: there were casualties in corridor 5.

Baxter’s team ran to the spot. They found Army Veteran Brian Birdwell, who was in excruciating pain from burns. It was a situation that Baxter was unexpectedly prepared for: Months earlier, in an emergency exercise, the flight clinic trained for the same scenario that unfolded on 9/11: a plane crashing into the Pentagon.

John Baxter still serves at the Pentagon, though now as a civilian flight surgeon. For this week’s Born the Battle Podcast, Baxter details his story of 9/11 and the days that followed.


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Author

Adam Stump

Adam Stump is a public affairs specialist with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He is a retired Air Force Veteran who served 20 years, including two deployments to Afghanistan for detention operations and special operations.

Comments

  1. Donna Cornell    

    Thank you ALL in our Military for ALL you have sacrificed and the courage and bravery that took place that day was ‘beyond the call of duty’ in ALL the stories I have heard from the World Trade Center folks inside, to the Fireman and Police outside coming in, yes ‘going INSIDE to the danger’ to RESCUE others!
    And, for the incredible CONTINUED sacrifice of ALL our Military to which we have family also and words will never be able to express my appreciation for ALL in our Military, thank you again.
    God DOES bless America, it is NOT God Who ’caused’ this nor God Who was ‘teaching any lesson’ from this! We KNOW clearly it was ‘hate-filled, terrorists’ whose ‘false god’ of ‘false deadly, dark ideology’ that taught them to ‘hate’ and be ‘destructive’….the Word of God calls that Satan, plain and simple. We ‘forgive’ them but we will NOT ‘forget’ this lesson of ‘history’ just as we will NOT ‘forget’ the Holocaust! There is NO ‘denying’ of ‘evil’ with folks like Hitler or terrorists of a ‘false and evil god’ they ‘choose’ to be a part of, but WE, THE TRUE AMERICANS ‘STAND TOGETHER’ AND WILL ‘PRAY’ AND GIVE THANKS TO OUR GOD, THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO ALL WE CAN TO ‘PROTECT’ THIS GREAT NATION, WE CALL AMERICA AND KEEP IT AS IT WAS FOUNDED, ‘ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE WITH ‘LIBERTY AND JUSTICE’ FOR ‘ALL’!

  2. maxwell    

    Air Force flight surgeon showed up to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia,

    To me, John Baxter is a hero to this country. I wish could bump into you someday.

    1. james mccotter manning    

      Is JOHN BAXTER fm New Bern,N.C…if so, so am I
      Thanks

  3. Wizkid    

    This post is very informative

  4. Richard Thompson    

    On 9/11, eighteen years ago I began a new job as a veterans service officer and we lost a close family friend in the World Trade Center destruction. We have never forgotten nor will ever forget what happened on that day. May we remember all the brave first responders, veterans and civilians who made such a difference in being there to help. May they always be remembered. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

  5. CSM(R) Jay F. Lovelace    

    I’m a retired U.S. Army, Special Forces CSM, on 9/11 I was the CSM for the Special Forces Qualification Course MOS phase. I was flying from Ft Bragg, NC to New York City to observe our Special Forces Medical Students working, learning and practicing their their advanced medical skills in two hospitals as well as riding with the New York City Paramedics and responding to 911 Emergency calls.

    I did not make it to New York City on this day 18 years ago, but did finally make it to Dallas, TX!

    Thank you to all of America’s First Responders, our Military and Civilians for the hard work they all perform to protect our great country and our values and many freedoms we have.

    v/r Jay F Lovelace, CSM(R), USA

    1. james mccotter manning    

      Like yourself,I[also] was SF[1st 5th 7th 46th Co[Thailand] Tng gp JFKCMA
      !960-1980

  6. GEORGE BERRY JR    

    for all who where able to help it was a blessing to have you answer the call for help in an emergency we should never forget

  7. Steve Lowe    

    Thank you for your service sir, military and civilian.

  8. John William Jones    

    Remembering all who were lost and all those that were injured and the brave first responders and civilians who rushed to help on that day, eighteen years ago. Let us never forget.

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