James O'Bryon was not worried about dying when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, but he was thankful that he got out alive.
O'Bryon, deputy assistant secretary of defense 10 years ago, said he was not fearful, even though he did not know if he was going to make it out.
"My faith is strong," he said. "If I died, I knew where I'd be. Absent from the body, present with the Lord," O'Bryon said quoting II Corinthians 5:8.
O'Bryon will share his experiences in the Pentagon and his faith in Christ when he speaks on "The Lord is My Defense" at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 at Faith Baptist Church of Altoona, 315 40th St.
He is the keynote speaker for the patriotic service with "Lessons We Should Have Learned From 9/11/01" as the theme. It will honor military personnel, firefighters and police. State Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, and Chuck Ferrell, former WTAJ anchor, will share their experiences from the day of the attacks.
O'Bryon said the reference to God as one's defense can be found in several Psalms.
In addition to speaking, O'Bryon will sing "The Penny Song," a story about the coin, and a patriotic song, perhaps "God Bless America."
Singing is only one of the talents of the man who serves as a consultant to the Pentagon and Homeland Security and a lecturer at military institutes and universities.
He said 184 people were killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
O'Bryon remembers he was attending a meeting in "The Tank," a classified area of the Pentagon, when a secretary interrupted the private conference to tell him a plane had hit the Twin Towers. He said he thought is was a small plane and did not realize it was a national crisis until he came out of the room and saw a live televised news report of a plane hitting the other tower.
Little did he know that where he was working would be hit about 30 minutes later.
"It woke us up," he said. "We realized we were not as secure as we thought we were."
O'Bryon said the day of the terrorist attacks is important to remember because it serves as a warning that it could happen again, and it should be observed as a day of thanksgiving because America survived and recovered from it.
During the program, military personnel will be recognized, and special recognition will be given to families who have lost loved ones in the military since 9/11. Fire, police departments and political leaders also will be recognized.
Pastor Gary Dull of Faith Baptist Church said, "This special night will not only be a night of remembrance, but a night to honor God, show our patriotism and encourage American citizens to labor together in order to protect our great nation from those who desire to destroy it from without or from within."