Chuck Banks said there are some country music songs that make him misty eyed.
He said tunes like “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” by Alan Jackson make him emotional, especially when thinking about Sept. 11, 2001.
“I can’t sing it,” he said. “It is just too close to home. It’s sort of a gut punch, and I can’t finish it.”
In front of a small crowd at Bishop Stadium on Wednesday night, Banks, a former executive with the Central Intelligence Agency, talked about that day and how it changed the United States.
“9/11’s more than about a single day,” Banks said. “We do this every year, but it’s really more than about a day. ... This really has become a (generational tragedy). It’s become sort of a way of life.”
First responders, Manhattan city officials, Fort Riley personnel and others arrived at CiCo Park to hear Banks’ speech, commemorate 9/11 and honor the 2,900-plus lives lost 18 years ago. The Flint Hills Volunteer Center sponsored the event.
Banks took the crowd through his day on Sept. 11, when he was at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, which is 8 miles west of the Pentagon. Banks was the deputy director of logistics at the CIA.
“Everybody was gathered around the TV,” he said. “We abandoned all our plans for that day and went into crisis mode.”
Banks said he felt emotions overtake him and called his family members partway through the day while stationed in the basement of the CIA headquarters in the mailroom.
“It made no sense at all,” he said. “But I kinda needed to hear everybody’s voice. I needed to know that everybody was OK before I could knuckle down and get back to work.”
Other individuals also talked during the event, including Lori Bishop, executive director of the FHVC, Ronnie Grice, chief of police at Kansas State University and FHVC board member, Lewis Smith, reverend of the Manhattan First Free Methodist Church, and Genae Denver, FHVC board member, among others.
Gov. Laura Kelly and William Turner, president of the Armed Forces Community Foundation, also shared sentiments.
Kelly said she felt a heavy heart as she spoke to the crowd, remembering the people who lost their lives and those who responded to the tragedy.
“They should all be in our hearts on this difficult day,” Kelly said.
Turner talked about what he was doing on 9/11. He was serving as a major in the Army at the Pentagon that day. He was concerned about his pregnant wife, Alissa, who was also in the Pentagon.
“I felt the force of the impact, and I immediately attempted to contact my wife,” Turner said. “Having no success, I evacuated the building with the others and later discovered the area where she had worked was where the plane had indeed crashed.”
His sister-in-law informed him that his wife was safe. She left the area about 30 minutes before the plane struck the Pentagon. Some of Alissa’s co-workers were killed in the attack.
Banks also talked about the aftermath of 9/11, even touching on when the Navy killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
To end the speech, Banks thanked the people who helped him get where he was today; Banks was once stationed at Fort Riley and also studied at Kansas State University 40 years ago.