On February 6th, Alice Lloyd College hosted the spring semester’s Opening Convocation with guest speaker Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Darling. Born in Patchogue in Long Island, New York, Darling was chosen as the pilot of President Clinton’s Marine Helicopter Squadron in June of 1998 and later was brought into the White House to organize the president’s transportation under the Bush administration. He was in this role when the events of September 11th, 2001, took place and gave an elaborate, detailed speech about the events and effects from that day, answering questions from the audience afterward. LTC Darling has been sharing his story for 12 years and gave his account to the campus in an effective and timely manner.
Before detailing the events and timeline of September 11, LTC Darling spoke about his duty as pilot and organizer. He expressed the significance of his duty to fly the president knowing that the Commander in Chief’s life was in his hands. He then detailed the process of moving the president from place to place. He entailed that “to pre-position equipment and men, we had to be able to move them at the flip of a dime.” LTC Darling began his story of September 11 by saying it was like any other day, and he was in the process of viewing President Bush’s schedule when the news of the first tower struck the office. He recalled the shock everyone felt watching the second plane strike. He then recalled the evacuation of the White House, the fear caused by the strike at the Pentagon, and the patriotism of Flight 93’s passengers, before closing with an inspiring message for the students present to build their confidence, as they are the future of the United States.
It was interesting in general the LTC Darling’s account of how our nation’s leaders responded to the September 11th attacks from inside the White House bunker, yet I also found it incredible regarding his account of the fourth plane. The most interesting fact to me however, was the responsibility he placed on ALC students being the future. His account of September 11 was incredible, but I also took a lot of his words about my generation to heart. LTC Darling’s speech left an impression on me that I will never forget.
By ALC Student Contributor Micah Turner