9/11 Survivor, OTC’s Dr. Loren Lundstrom, reflects on the attacks 20 years later

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 8:36 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 11:38 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Dr. Loren Lundstrom is the Dean of Student Development at Ozarks Technical Community College. But before coming to Springfield, he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. On September 11, 2001, he was working at the Pentagon as an Intelligence Directorate.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, many of us can remember exactly where we were when it happened. For Dr. Lundstrom, he was in corridor two for a training session when the airplane hit the Pentagon. While taking a break from the training session, an officer told Dr. Lunstrom that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and terrorism was suspected.

“So I went back to the meeting and I actually thought in my mind, I wonder what would happen if a plane hit this big enormous building?” said Dr. Lundstrom.

It was about 9:40 a.m. when members of Al Quida crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the west wall of the Pentagon.

“All of a sudden the whole building shook,” said Dr. Lundstrom. “It was kinda like an earthquake. I remember hearing a big thud, a deep thud as the building shook.”

People began screaming in the hallway as the order to evacuate the building came blaring over the intercom. After finding a maintenance stairway, he was able to make it out of the building.

“I remember I was stepping on glass and I looked up to see where the glass came from and I saw this black smoke just billowing over the top of the pentagon,” said Dr. Lundstrom.

But that didn’t immediately alleviate his concerns.

“I knew at the time terrorists would often have a bomb go off and them when first responders came then a secondary explosion would take place,” said Dr. Lundstrom.

Thankfully, that did not happen. After obtaining a safe distance, his world stood still.

“I looked back on the enormous gaping hole and this black smoke pouring out,” said Lundstrom. “It was a very surreal moment.”

After two hours, Dr. Lundstrom was able to get to a pay phone to call his wife and let her know he was safe.

“My wife called one of our neighbors that had a wrecker and he gave me a ride home,” said Dr. Lundstrom.

He returned to the Pentagon the next day as the military prepared for operation Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom.

“One of my favorite memories was walking down the ramp to the Pentagon and it was lined with quilts and banners and kids drawings on huge pieces of paper. And quilt clubs would make quilts for the survivors and that was really special. Everyone had a flag. There were flags everywhere.”

Dealing with the aftermath of the effects wasn’t easy.

“I remember it was a week later and President Bush came and they had a memorial. Everyone in the office wanted to go, I said, yeah go ahead, I’ll stay here,” said Lundstrom. “They didn’t understand and I didn’t really understand. I just didn’t feel like doing that.”

Everyone who worked in the Pentagon was encouraged to see a psychiatrist. Since then, Dr. Lundstrom has found that giving presentations on his experience of the 9/11 attacks has helped him cope with the event. After the United States pulled out of Afghanistan, he wants people to remember the sacrifice that was made in the name of freedom.

“I really don’t want people to think Afghanistan was anything more than a waste of time. A lot of our military was lost or injured. A lot of our military lost something in Afghanistan and the last thing they want is to feel like what they did was for nothing,” said Dr. Lundstrom. “I just hope, because the American public has been so supportive of our military and those efforts and I just hope that continues.”

Dr. Lundstrom retired from the military after 23 years of service. He now serves as the Dean of Student Development and teaches courses in political science at OTC.

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