Maryland family struggles with loss as 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches

For some military families the days leading to Sept. 11 can bring bad memories and trigger PTSD. One Maryland woman, who lost her husband in the terror attacks, said that’s the case for her family.

Martha Jackson-Holley says she still remembers that day from 20 years ago as if it was yesterday.

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Jackson-Holley was working as a Pharmacy Technician at the Ft. Myers Military Base while her husband Jimmie Holley, who was retired military, worked inside the Pentagon as an accountant. 

The two had been dating since 1989 and were married in 2000, 18 months before the September 11 attacks.

She said the morning of the attacks, she was on the phone with her husband but their talk was cut short because of the number of patients that needed help.

"I said babe I must get back to work," Jackson-Holley said. "I went back to my patients in the pharmacy then all of a sudden we heard this great big boom and it shook the whole building."

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Jackson-Holley said everyone left the building, and once outside, they were met with a thick cloud of smoke. She says at that moment she feared the worst for her husband.

"I didn’t know the plane had hit," Jackson-Holley said. "All I saw was smoke and fire but it was feeling because we were very close."

Her children, Daniel and Kelly Jackson, at the time were working in Bethesda, but they knew something didn’t seem right that day.

"We heard over the radio that a plane hit the Pentagon," Daniel Jackson said. "I knew, a gut feeling, that my father, something had happened to him."

Jimmie Holley never made it home that night and the family says they started to call hospitals one by one to no avail.

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They say the next few days were full of anxiety not knowing where he was.

"We knew he was there we just didn’t want to accept it or maybe ready to accept it," Kelly Jackson said.  "It’s still hard even to this day."

Jimmie Holley wasn’t officially identified until months later when his remains were found.

Since his death, the family says they still grieve his loss especially around this time of year.

"I think I cried for about seven years," Jackson-Holley said. "Right now I have anxiety attacks."

"You have to move on in life but how do you move on? It’s hard when you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye." Kelly Jackson said.

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Today the family still holds on to Jimmie Holley’s belongings that were found near the crash site which included pieces of his clothing, a belt, and handkerchief.

They say he also left behind a note, saying his dream was for his granddaughter Kayla, who was in daycare during the attacks, to become a lawyer.

"My grandfather and I, we were very close since I was a baby," Walker said. "Now I’m in law school, I’m working at a law firm. I’m just really trying to keep his legacy and keep everything going."