PETAL, MS (WDAM) - It's been more than a decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation. Every year the memories of that day play back in many American's minds.
Every anniversary, Staff Sergeant Michelle Hutton, of Petal, takes time out with her family, two sons, now 9 and 11. She explains September 11 to them, and the time they lost together due to her deployments following that day in 2001.
"That was a large attack on the United States," said Hutton.
Hutton signed up for the United States Air Force at a young age.
"I knew my mom wouldn't have been able to afford college, so I found out I could go into the military at 17, and they would give me a 100 percent free tuition. So, I said sign me up," said Hutton.
Hutton admits she didn't know what to expect.
"My first deployment was in 98, and I went to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch. While I was there Operation Desert Fox kicked off, and I thought, 'I didn't sign up for this'," said Hutton.
But she came to terms with her duties.
"That is when I guess my patriotism really got strong. I realized that I was actually making a difference."
Hutton would make another impact, three years later, on September 11, 2001.
"I was at Dover, Delaware. We were going out to the planes out on the ramp. We were going out checking the planes for tie downs," said Hutton.
That is when Hutton heard, and at first, she believed it was an accident.
"The radio was on, and they said that a plane hit the tower. The people that I was with, my crew, we just thought it was an accident, that some private pilot it the tower," said Hutton.
A week later, Hutton was identifying the remains of those who died in the towers and pentagon.
"They flew them in on army chinooks to Dover Air Force Base. I was assigned to the detail of taking them off the chinooks and putting them on the back of Air Force planes, and the Dover Air Force base morgue was designated to identify all these bodies that had perished,"said Hutton.
Hutton says she struggled with anger, confusion, but most of all sadness for the families of those who lost their lives. So, she made sure every loved one was sent home with as much respect, love and care she and her fellow soldiers could provide.
"We handled all the remains as if the families were right there watching us," said Hutton.
Hutton believes her connection to September 11 will never be severed. She says it left her with a new appreciation for family and country.