Sergeant Maez: Changing a life through tragedy

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. These acts brought America to a screeching halt; nothing else that day seemed to matter. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on that Tuesday morning, and the destiny of a generation changed forever. This is a 10 part series about those serving in the military and how their stories paint a picture that shaped today's Air Force.)

"During 9/11, I was asleep," said Tech. Sergeant Anthony Maez from the 355th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. "I was a civilian and worked night shift. My fiancée at the time woke me up and told me to turn on the TV. We started watching right after the second plane hit the tower. We didn't know what was going on. Shortly after, the towers collapsed. For the next three days, the TV didn't turn off, we were glued to it."

"My name is Sergeant Maez and I'm originally from Tucson, Ariz. After high school, I used to party a lot. I just wasted life. I was engaged to my high school sweetheart and worked at Bombardier, which made aircrafts."

At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Sergeant Maez had two brothers in the military. One was in the Army and the other in the Air Force. Initially, the thought of their safety didn't cross his mind.

"Immediately after the attacks, I wasn't thinking of them at all," Sergeant Maez said. "As a civilian, I didn't think someone did this on purpose. I was a young kid; I didn't know what was going on. I wasn't concerned about it until the president addressed the nation. I started to think about if we're going to war. Sometimes I would hear people at work talking about it and I didn't want my brothers to go. That's what I remember about being a civilian. I was afraid. I wanted to do something about it, but I couldn't."

The attacks on 9/11 had a crippling affect on the economy and jobs, especially the company where Sergeant Maez worked.

"The part of Bombardier I worked for customized Lear jets," Sergeant Maez said. "Because nobody wanted to fly, production was slowing down and the company had to lay off employees. They had roughly 1,200 employees and there were around 500 layoffs.

At this time in his life, Sergeant Maez was already entered in the delayed entry program for the Air Force, so the layoffs didn't affect him as much as some of the other workers. According to him, the reasons for joining were because his wife was pregnant, he was going to be out of a job and because he wanted to do something that mattered and made a difference.

Sergeant Maez may have joined the Air Force for multiple reasons, but it's because of the people he leads and the opportunity the Air Force gave him that keeps him in.

"I just came from noncommissioned officer academy and I really enjoy being an NCO," Sergeant Maez said. "I tell my Airmen that when you become a NCO, your core values have to change. Integrity first is already expected, so now it's all about service before self. I put my Airmen before me. Everyone thinks about getting out at one point or another, but look at the way the economy is right now. The Air Force is good to me. I can take care of my family, I'm not knee-deep in debt and I'm financially stable. I think I'm very blessed."

Although Sept. 11 was a tremendous tragedy to the U.S., it had a positive effect on Sergeant Maez's life.

"Sept. 11 completely changed my life," Sergeant Maez said. "I would say I'm blessed to be where I'm at in my life. I don't know what I would be doing if the attacks didn't happen. I'm not saying I'm happy it happened. It was sickening and still is. But I'm a different and better person because of it."