The 14-year-old was in the shower when his sister started banging on the bathroom door, yelling that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.
"When I came out, my mom was crying and my dad was pissed as hell and I was just sitting on the couch. I didn’t know what to do," said Jeffrey Collin Clark, now 18.
Next month, the Cactus Shadows High School graduate will fulfill a goal he set for himself that day — he will join the United States Army.
"Hopefully, I’ll be in Afghanistan, chasing down some terrorists," he said.
Uncle Sam needs more like him. Across the nation, the Army is having trouble finding volunteers. In April, the Army missed its recruiting goal for the third month in a row, coming up 42 percent short of its target.
Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, the U.S. Army Recruiting Commander, told a news conference last week that the current climate represents "the most challenging conditions," he has seen during his 33-year Army career. Low unemployment rates and a lack of adult encouragement to join the military are preventing teens from joining up, he explained.
Clark is a different sort of recruit — one who didn’t really have to be recruited at all.
Like Clark, the roughly 15,000 high school graduates who make up the East Valley’s class of 2005 were just weeks into their freshman year on Sept. 11, 2001.
The tragedy has remained on their minds, and it even made its way into several student speeches during commencement ceremonies last week.
For some, Sept. 11 was a jump-start on the decision to join the military.
"That definitely started to get me fired up," Clark recalled.
His cousin, Dylan Bailey, was serving in the Army at that time.
"Dylan called me and said, you definitely want to join." Clark said. "He was saying it was a serious time, it’s no joke."
He showed up at the Scottsdale recruiting office his sophomore year, but was told he needed to wait until graduation.
"I just kept in touch with them. I’d call and say, ‘I still want to join the Army, just so you know, I still want to join,’ " he said.
At first, his parents encouraged him to do something else, perhaps the Coast Guard.
One of his grandfathers, a Korean War veteran, didn’t want him to enlist, saying he should go to college instead.
Clark stood firm and says his family still supports him.
"There were some tears of joy when I swore in," he said.
The Army is optimistic that recent graduates such as Clark will boost recruitment.
Department of Defense data shows that parents are less inclined today than they were immediately after Sept. 11 to recommend the Army to students.
Yet Scottsdale recruiter Sgt. Charles Brown said the recent high school graduates he sees come of their own will, anyway, not because of parental
"Seniors, for some reason, seem to get this overwhelming sense of pride," he said.
Eight Scottsdale high school graduates have already signed up for the Army, and more may come on board this summer, Brown said. Students have to wait until they graduate to formally enlist.
Last year, seven high school graduates from Scottsdale ended up enlisting in the Army.
Those Scottsdale recruits will contribute toward the nationwide goal of 80,000 recruits for fiscal year 2005 — 3,000 higher than last year’s requirement and 6,200 higher than the previous year’s, according to the Armed Forces Press Service.
Sitting in the recruiter’s office, Clark was excited as he spoke of leaving for basic training in Fort Benning, Ga., on July 7. He has joined the Buddy Program with his friend, Kyle Baggot, meaning they can go through training together and eventually be stationed together as well.
But Clark has the dream of becoming an Airborne Ranger.
"I just see myself in that uniform," he said.