Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sept. 11

My husband's giving a speech tomorrow in remembrance of September 11th.
If he had finished the speech, I would write it down now. Instead I'm going to do my own remembering.

Was it really 10 years ago?

We all remember where we were when we heard.
I was in a billeting room on Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. Holding a baby. There was no alert that something was happening on the other side of the country. My mom called, "Turn on the television."
The second plane hit seconds after we turned it on. It would remain on for the next week.
The base immediately locked down.
Shock. Dismay. Devastation. Anticipation.
How did this happen? Are we safe? What does this mean for our country?
Our illusion of safety shattered. What are we going to do?
I remember the unity. For a brief period of time, we were all on the same side. We were all Americans devastated by an attack on our soil. We begged God to save us. For a brief second, we realized we weren't really in control.

I don't know a single person who died on September 11th. I didn't smell the burning fires. I never saw the rubble aside from on television. I didn't wait to hear from a loved one. My memories of September 11th were shaped by the television. The stories I know are the ones highlighted on remembrance videos. There are thousands of stories. I've only heard a handful.

We must feel safe now. The military must be doing their job. We freely question and analyze whether our response was right. That's a sign we feel safe. No one questioned if we would respond in those early days following September 11th. We just questioned, WHEN? When would we go after those who had attacked us? We anticipatingly waited.

September 11th rejuvenated my husband's love for this country. A readiness. A willingness. An eagerness to be used. And I was ready to send him in those early days. Go do something.

The focus of the military mission changed for this generation of least it changed for my husband.
Their missions became personal.
They weren't fighting to protect a foreign people from a foreign enemy on foreign land.
They were fighting to protect Americans.

George Bush stood on the rubble of the Twin Towers and yelled into a bullhorn, "I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people---the people who knocked down these buildings will hear from all of us soon!"

I remember my husband's focus that day.
When are we going?
Come on. When are we going?
Send us.
A fierce, determined energy.

He would go. Two years later.
He would spend the months and years after 9-11 as an instructor pilot training other pilots to go. He would train others to do the missions that he wanted to do. It was no less an important job, but I know he would rather have gone himself. He got his chance. 2003, 2004, 2007, and an upcoming December 2011 deployment. Just over a year of his life would be spent "there." He would say that's not much compared to most military people today. But it's something.

The mission is still alive. It's debated. It's critiqued. It's questioned.
That's good. That's what we do in a free country.
Are we doing the right thing? What should we have done differently?
Don't forget to be thankful we can question these things now.
We weren't free enough in the days following September 11th to question much.
In our security, we are free to question.

And while we're wondering if we did/are doing the right thing, don't forget...
Soldiers will keep doing their jobs while we sleep in safe beds and contemplate whether we are doing the right thing in this war on terror.
Firefighters will keep walking up the stairs while others contemplate if the towers are going to fall.
Paramedics will keep compressing a lifeless heart while others sit frozen in shock.
Heroic citizens will risk their own lives to save the life of a stranger.
God will still be in charge.
Don't forget what it felt like on that day to truly act as one nation.
Our unity is rare these days. It's sad that it took tragedy to pull us together.

It's good to remember September 11th.
I don't think about it everyday.
Is that a sign of how far we've come or that I've grown numb?
I don't know. It's good to move forward, right?
I've thought about it more lately with an upcoming deployment.
All of us were touched that day.
Don't forget that cost.
Remember September 11th.

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