How 9/11 moved some to enlist, change countries

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four men are in Hawaii, in part because of 9/11. They changed careers, and some even changed their citizenship.

One of them is Robert Keogh, now a yeoman with the U.S. Coast Guard. He watched the events unfold half a world away from the islands, in a pub in Dublin, Ireland.

"People were just like looking at each other, because everybody's got friends and family in New York," Keogh said, his voice still with more than a touch of the Irish brogue. "If they're not on vacation there, they've got family living there, they've got friends living there. So it just really hit home."

It hit home hard enough that Keogh decided to move to the United States and become a citizen.

"That pretty much changed -- made up my mind that I wanted to come to the states, and the military seemed like the best option for me, so I could help out," he said.

Another Coast Guardsman stationed here lived just about 30 minutes outside New York City when the attack happened. Craig Longobardi saw the aftermath, but it still took him five years to fully decide what he wanted to do.

"I was 27 years old, 2006," said Longobardi. "I was basically at a crossroads where I could have taken over a certain company. And it was either take over the company and choose that as my career path, or do something I really wanted to do before it was too late."

Longobardi is now an aviation mechanic with the Coast Guard, and knows he made the right decision; he has no regrets.

Another New Yorker, who was born in the Philippines and came to the U.S. as a teenager, saw the immediate aftermath of the attack up close.

"We saw it on TV, basically," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Enjambre. "And then me and my buddy went to the Brooklyn Bridge where we could see it. We were about ten minutes away from the Brooklyn Bridge."

Enjambre made up his mind quickly.

"Me and my friend, that night, told ourselves we're going to join the army. And then we went to the recruiting station the next day after that," he said.

Meanwhile, Robert Jones was an emergency medical technician with the New York fire department who wasn't in the city on 9/11.

"I was actually here on vacation visiting my brother and his wife when the attack occurred," said Jones, who was unable to return to New York until a week after the attack. He helped with the search and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center.

"There were crowds of people cheering for us," he recalled. "You could smell, when you got closer, the smell of the remains, the human remains in the pile. And the vastness of it was surreal."

He had already applied to become a police officer, both in New York and in Honolulu. For reasons unrelated to 9/11, he chose HPD. But he still remembers working at Ground Zero.

"Well, it's something that you -- I will carry with me, forever. I think a little bit about it almost every day," he said.

So what motivated the men who joined up with the armed forces? One of them said it may have been their way to show they were patriotic.

"The word 'patriotic' is a big word," said Enjambre, "but when it comes to the person who has it, if you have it, you have it. If you don't have it, then you don't have it."

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