Growing up on Fort Bragg as the son of an active duty service member, Josh Groll saw the military installation as his home, a small town insulated from the rest of the world.
But the morning after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Fort Bragg as he knew it changed. The post was put on high alert, and overnight transformed with a maze of barricades, barbed wire and armed guards.
“Obviously everything was being done for our protection, and it was an incredibly safe place on September 12, but it looked like being in an occupied country almost,” he recalled.
“People on a military bases don’t carry firearms around,” said Groll. “I remember being very intimidated because there were soldiers everywhere and they were very armed.”
His middle school was similarly fortified. Inside, students were confined to the gymnasium, as many teachers were unable to get access to the post. Some that made it to school that day arrived at 3 a.m. to beat the long lines at the newly installed checkpoints.
The kids were anxious, he recalled, pondering what would come next for their family members.
“It shook my foundation of believing everything was safe, and this was just another community,” said Groll. “Because it obviously wasn’t.”
The barricades and barbed wire came down in the weeks following 9/11, but some physical changes to the post became permanent, including the access gates along the perimeter.
“The checkpoints went up overnight, and they never left.”
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.