SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - It’s been 18 years, but for many, September 11th is still a very painful memory.
One Suncoast veteran worked for a remote office of the Pentagon and was so close to it, his whole building shook when the Pentagon was hit by the plane.
Every year around this time, Terry Byce remembers the colleagues whose lives were taken so abruptly, he relives the fear of being so close and said on this day 18 years ago, America lost its innocence.
“Sometimes it sneaks up on you and then you think of it the day before and then you start rolling back through your mental Rolodex," explained Byce.
Resurfacing memories that aren’t easy for him to revisit.
“You could see the building that was shaking and the black smoke was coming up from the pentagon and everybody was screaming," he said.
He remembers his own building shaking, and a sense of panic broke out, then he heard a voice over the loudspeaker telling everyone to evacuate. At some point in the middle of chaos, everything stopped.
“It was like the earth stood still, you know, you didn’t hear anything,” Byce said.
The retired U.S. Army veteran quickly found himself alone in an empty office answering phone calls from across the country.
“People calling to check in on their loved ones and so forth" he explained.
He’d answer questions and see through the window, smoke was covering the entire skyline.
“It was probably a week and a half before the smoke stopped," Byce said. “I was able to see it the way it was, because that was... the location where the plane hit was the location where I worked before I retired from the army. The west, southwest side.”
But knowing he could’ve been part of the 2,977 people who were killed isn’t the most painful part, it’s knowing many who were.
“It’s a very large place, but everybody is doing the same thing or everybody is close,” Byce said. "There’s a comradeship there.”
Byce said the terrorists attacks really stripped away everything that wasn’t a priority in his life.
Like many, he said he focused on loving his family, his neighbors and God.