ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. –
Twenty-one-year-old Timothy Booker was on his way to an internship at a law office. When he arrived, a paralegal assistant asked if he had watched the news.
“She (the paralegal) said I needed to go home and watch the news,” Booker said.
When he returned home, he saw the second plane fly into the World Trade Center South Tower.
It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
“I thought it was a movie. I didn’t think it could be real. I was in disbelief,” said Booker.
Booker, like many Americans on this day, quickly realized the nation was under attack.
“The attacks bothered me deeply. Those were innocent people. They woke up thinking it would be a regular day and they were murdered,” said Booker. “I was very angry about the attacks. Anger was my strongest emotion.”
At the time, the young man from Grambling, Louisiana was attending Louisiana Tech University wrapping up his career as college football player. A history student enjoying senior year with his eyes set on becoming a lawyer. Graduation from college was just months away.
But in the days following the attacks, Booker and a friend watched the news and talked about joining the military.
“My friend was going to join the Army Reserve with me,” said Booker. “We set a date to go to the recruiting station, but he said he had something else to do.”
Booker went to the appointment alone, and told the recruiter he wanted to serve as a paralegal specialist and took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test on September 17, less than a week after the attacks.
“I did not get the score I wanted (on the ASVAB), but my relationship with my recruiter was very good. I told him I wanted to take the ASVAB again,” said Booker.
On October 17, exactly 30 days later, Booker took the ASVAB again, and improved his score. But another hurdle then stood in his way.
“The job I wanted, paralegal specialist, didn’t open for another six months,” he said.
The young man was insistent on working as a paralegal specialist.
“I started talking to the other recruiters at the Military Entrance Processing Station. My recruiter was not happy about that,” said Booker.
Booker’s recruiter talked with the guidance counselor at the MEPS and found another military occupational specialty, a Licensed Vocational Nurse.
“My recruiter said this was one of the best jobs in the Army Reserve,” said Booker. “He said it was going to change my life. I told my recruiter I would take the job.”
Booker knew his parents would be upset by his decision to leave college.
“So I joined the Army Reserve before I told my parents,” said Booker.
He even second guessed his choice to serve in the military.
“I was supposed to graduate from college in February 2002, (but) I was graduating from basic training at the time I should have been graduating from college,” said Booker. “Everyone knew I was getting ready to graduate. All my friends thought I was crazy.”
But a new adventure was starting. Booker went on active duty for two years to complete the basic medic course and phase one of LVN training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and phase two at Fort Lewis, Washington. He was assigned to the 94th General Hospital in Bossier City, Louisiana.
“I had the full enlisted experience and it humbled me. I wouldn’t change it for anything,” said Booker.
He continued his military career earning a master’s degree in health care administration and serving as a medical service corps officer. He became a commissioned officer, by direct commission, in 2007 and joined the Active Guard and Reserve Program in 2008. He also served in the Air Force Reserve from 2004 until 2007 as a public health Technician at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana.
Today, Booker holds the rank of major in the U.S. Army Reserve and serves as a Deputy Inspector General in the 85th U.S Army Reserve Support Command’s Inspector General office. During the Command’s September battle assembly on the twenty-first anniversary of 9/11, he reflected on the decision he made to join the Army Reserve more than 20 years ago.
“I remember thinking this was a seminal moment in American history. When my grandkids ask me one day what I did on 9/11, I want to say I took action.”