BALTIMORE, Md. (WTAJ) – On September 11th, 2001, Ken Nacke, a Baltimore police officer, reported to work for what he thought would be a normal day before discovering that his brother was on Flight 93.
He was assigned to the canine unit on that day, and when he first reported to work, he distinctly recalls the weather on that morning.
“I remember how blue the sky was that day,” Nacke said. “It was one of the prettiest blue skies I’ve seen in many years. There wasn’t even a cloud in the sky, which sticks out in my memory.”
Nacke first found out about the attacks when he finished his morning chores and was in the locker room, changing into his officer uniform. The television was on and he heard a report about a “small commuter plane that may have struck one of the World Trade Center buildings.”
But then the initial report revealed the extent of the damage.
“You can see how large the impact site on the World Trade Center was,” he said. “You can definitely tell it wasn’t a small aircraft, it was a large airliner that actually struck the building.”
Nacke, going about his day, was assigned to respond to a bomb scare at a nearby military unit. As protocol, he and his team members shut their phones off, so they wouldn’t trigger a device. When he powered his phone back on, that’s when his world changed forever.
“My phone starts ringing, and it’s my wife and I answer it,” he said. “She says, ‘hey, I just got a phone call from your dad, he believes that Joey was on one of the flights.'”
Initially, Nacke was in disbelief. His brother, Louis J. “Joey” Nacke, didn’t travel often for work. But on this particular day, Joey, who worked for KB Toys, went to check on a delayed shipment on the west coast. His journey was only supposed to be a day trip.
“My mind started racing,” Nacke said. “I began peppering my wife with numerous questions that I knew she didn’t have the answers to. But your mind just starts racing, and you’re trying to figure out as much information as you can.”
Still on the job for the day, Nacke carried out his duties as an officer. Yet, he knew something was off in the back of his mind.
“Over time, I got that pit in my stomach like saying something here is off,” he said. “You know the hair on the back of my neck started standing up. Like, saying there’s something not right.”
So, at the end of his shift, Nacke went straight to his parent’s home in Ocean City to comfort them, wanting to be there in case they received the call that Joey was in fact, one of the passengers on United Flight 93.
“I kind of felt the need that I needed to be there for them,” Nacke said. “Joey was their first born child. I couldn’t imagine the pain and the worry they were having at the moment knowing that one of their children had passed.”
Joey Nacke was one of the passengers on Flight 93. He had just celebrated his 42nd birthday a few days before September 11th.
Nacke described him as a family man with a “huge heart.” He considers him and the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 heroes.
“They were able to come over that initial shock of being hijacked,” he said. “That stress and then gathering themselves, feeding off of each other’s energy. And then doing something heroic. That’s a powerful story, especially in today’s society.”
Nacke became heavily involved with the Flight 93 memorial from the start. As one of the federal advisory commissioners, he was one of 15 people from across the country that helped plan, design and construct the memorial.
Visiting Somerset County for the past 20 years, Nacke had the opportunity to connect and make friends in the community.
“They have the biggest hearts imaginable,” he said. “For me, now over 20 years, it’s kind of like I’m going home. You know, I’ve made some amazing relationships with the people in the area.”