Nashville Airport President reflects on 9/11 at the Pentagon

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Friday marks 19 years since America changed forever following the worst terrorist attack in modern history. The country will pause to remember the victims of September 11th, 2001 today, including in Middle Tennessee.

Doug Kreulen, the President and CEO of the Nashville International Airport, is a decorated veteran. He served with the U.S. Air Force for 27 years and was inside his office inside the Pentagon when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.

“19 years is a long time and you can relive it again like it was yesterday,” Kreulen said.

It started as a normal day. He had a meeting and was heading back to his office when he saw members of his team watching coverage of hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. They watched together as the second plane hit and immediately knew this was an attack on America.

“We were starting to run our checklist and get activated in the Pentagon areas and as we were doing that, the plane hit.”

It was only a half hour later.

Evacuations began and as soon as Kreulen arrived home that day, he was called back in for his 10 pm to 10 am shift. The building burned for three days until the fire was finally put out.

In the years since, he has carried the lessons he learned from the tragedy with him in his personal and professional life.

“I consider myself blessed,” he said. “I miss coworkers and I lost several friends while I served in the military, so it’s basically paying back for their service and we try to translate that into what we do at the Nashville Airport. We are focused on emergency preparedness, readiness and safety and I’m paying it back for my friends.”

He watched as the airline industry changed forever by heightening security and adding the Transportation Security Administration.

COVID-19 is affecting how several cities are hosting remembrance ceremonies on the anniversary, but it’s not stopping Americans from taking a moment to pause and remember the nearly 3,000 people killed.

Kreulen wants to share what he’s learned with the public. He will be speaking at Middle Tennessee State University’s virtual remembrance ceremony at 7:30 a.m. Click here to watch.

“A lot of us veterans feel like we need to give back to those currently serving and anything that we can do to share our experiences and let them know a military career is a great, but there are a lot of opportunities out in the public,” Kreulen said. “We are just trying to keep it together.”

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