Retired Ranger and FBI Special Agent James Gagliano knew about the threat of terrorists before 9/11 – he saw it firsthand in Yemen.
As a member of the elite FBI Hostage Rescue Team, James was dispatched to provide security for the FBI investigators building the case against al-Qa’ida following the December 2000 attack on the USS Cole. He recalls pacing the deck of the wounded Cole, his weapon at the ready, and thinking thoughts of revenge.
A graduate of WestPoint who earned his Ranger tab and served with the 10th Mountain Division, he knew about conflict. His 25 year career with the FBI would take him to several locations on the planet and into the sewers of undercover drug work. But none of that would prepare him for what he witnessed on September 11.
Were it not for a dental appointment and a leg still in a soft cast from recent surgery, James would most likely have been one of the victims of the brazen attacks on the World Trade Center. As it was, he spent many days following the attack working “the pile” to recover evidence.
James recounts many of the images seared into his mind from that fateful day; the look exchanged with a New York police officer when he passed through the barricade on his way toward the towers and the horrific image of fellow Americans jumping to their deaths rather than being burned alive.
Two of his FBI comrades gave their lives that day – Special Agent Leonard Hatton, who entered the World Trade Center to help and lost his life rescuing civilians and retired Special Agent John Patrick O’Neill, his supervisor in Yemen and the man considered by many to be the man who unsuccessfully tried to warn our nation about the looming terrorist threats.
James penned a compelling and passionate piece for Havok Journal about his experiences and thoughts on 9/11 titled “Earn This”.
TAKEAWAY: Over the course of his military and FBI career, James saw many awful examples of how inhumane men can be to each other. But 9/11 was the worst he has ever seen.
The largest 9/11 Memorial Tower climb by first responders and military members takes place at three locations in Arizona this fall. For more information visit: www.911towerchallenge.org
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