Joel Lumley, a CNC Machinist at Benchmark in Statham, Georgia

“I was working at Fowler Products in Athens when it happened. It was just a normal day to start with. I was working in the office in the machine shop when somebody walked in and said an airplane had hit the trade center in New York. I thought it was a bad accident. And then he came back and said another one had hit, and I said, ‘somebody’s gonna pay.'”

“The Georgia 48 Brigade was going to go over to Iraq, and I wanted to go to see if my training in the Georgia National Guard was any good, so I volunteered and got picked up by an infantry unit down in Valdosta.”

In May of 2005, we went over into Iraq. In Iraq, I had a coin I carried with me that said, ‘never forget.’ (September 11) was one way we justified to ourselves why we were over there. We were over there keeping them busy, keeping their heads down, so they couldn’t be over here (in the U.S.) doing bad things.”

“I was diagnosed last year with PTSD by the VA because I started having anxiety and claustrophobia and nightmares. I guess that’s one way 9/11 changed my life. I also got divorced after I got back from Iraq. And at Fowler Products, I got moved out of the job that I really loved to do when I got back.”

“I wouldn’t be who I am today and where I am today if 9/11 had not happened. I would not have gotten to go to Iraq and see what I saw. In the immediate aftermath, I would say it changed the way I looked at Muslim people because I was thinking they were all crazy and all bad, but by getting to go over to Iraq, I saw the good side. I saw that they’re not all bad.”

“I still think about how bad it was that day, seeing the people jump out of towers to try to get away from the fires — it was awful. And the fireman and police who rushed in to save the people who lost their lives.”

“I just have a feeling of sadness that people don’t remember anymore.”

Photo and interview by Morgan Phillips as part of the Advanced Photojournalism course at the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. 

 

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