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Looking back at 9/11: Retired admiral remembers the uncertainty after attacks

Shocked crowds of downtown Manhattanites observe the burning World Trade Center towers in New York City early Sept. 11, 2001. Three hijacked planes crashed into major U.S. landmarks on the same day, destroying both of New York's Twin Towers and plunging the Pentagon in Washington into flames, in an unprecedented assault on key symbols of U.S. military and financial power. (Andrew Lichtenstein, Corbis via Getty Images)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A retired admiral is speaking out about how the U.S. Navy reacted as they learned the country was under attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

Retired Admiral Robert Natter is now a Ponte Vedra Beach resident but he’s been in Washington D.C. attending many military events as the nation remembers what happened 20 years ago.

In 2001, Natter was commanding the Atlantic Fleet and said the reality of 9/11 is that America didn’t know how extensive the attack would be: was it the four hijacked planes or was there more coming?

“We were there to protect the country and also the fleet, quite frankly, because if you harken back to that day no one knew what the extent of those attacks would be. We didn’t know when they would stop, we didn’t know if that would entail not only from the air but other assets. So we were deployed and I got to give a lot of credit to the men and women on the ships and squadrons for doing their job,” Natter said.

Natter laid out the changes the Navy had to immediately undergo which included rerouting multiple ships back to the U.S.

“After the attacks, in fact, the day of the attacks, [USS Enterprise] was headed to the south of Africa and actually turned around,” he said. “The battleground commander determined that he needed to be added back. We had two carriers off Pakistan, within a day or two, ready to launch strikes ready to do what we needed to do.”

Natter said the U.S. response on 9/11 was not chaotic and the military reacted as they were trained to.

News4Jax also asked Admiral Natter about the pull-out from Afghanistan.

He said the one thing we have now that wasn’t there 20 years ago is a lot of intelligence in Afghanistan to keep track of any terrorists. But, he said other parts of the world like East Africa and the Middle East could be problematic to U.S. security.

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