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The journey of a thousand miles begins with...the perfect pair of shoes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We remember

Seven years ago today the world changed. The world of the military family changed in ways that few can understand. We started hanging blue star banners in our windows, said goodbye to our loved ones, not knowing if we'd ever see them again, and glued ourselves to the news, eschewing food and sleep for fear we might miss something important. Sadly, we also began attending funerals of our friends spouses and were silently and guiltily thankful that it wasn't our husband laying in the flag draped coffin. We grew to fear things that would never occur to a civilian family: a knock on the door when no one was expected, dark blue or white mini-vans (what they arrive in to tell you the news you don't want to hear), and radio silence from our spouses unit (this means something has happened and they have to let the family know before it leaks out). We became suspicious. Who was that man lurking around the gate of the base? Who was that odd looking person staring at us in the store? We tried not to be suspicious of everyone of middle eastern descent, but it was hard. We grew to hate the news, but couldn't turn it off. We cried. A lot. Never in front of our children because we had to remain brave for them. We lived for 3 am phone calls that were static filled and lasted only for a few minutes. They had called. They were safe. We tried not to pay attention to the occasional explosion we could hear in the background of those phone calls. We waited. Waited for the day they would finally come home, months, sometimes more than a year after they left, and tried not to think about the day we would have to say goodbye yet again sometimes less than a year after they returned. Our world was no longer dominated by complaints of bad military housing, low pay for ridiculously long hours, broken items from the recent move, unexpected orders to move when you just got your house set up or 2-3 month long training exercises.. We now had something completely different to think about. We had to think about what we would do in that "worst case scenario." We had to talk to our spouses about what their wishes were for their funeral if it came down to it. Believe me, this is not an easy conversation to have. Many had to explain to their young children what had happened, why daddy or mommy had to go away and some had to explain why they would never come back. All because of one day in September.

At the end of August of 2001 M and I left our post in GA (we were so glad to see that post in our rear view mirror) and went to visit our families before we moved back to Germany. M was due to fly on Sept 18, and the dogs and I would follow a few weeks later. The morning of Sept 11, M, my mom and I were watching the Today Show (we were staying with my mom). The lead story of the day was Michael Jordan's return to basketball. I was lacing up my walking shoes, looked over at M and jokingly said "Must be a slow news day." He laughed and agreed and then we took off out the door. M went for a run and I went for a walk. I came home after 2 miles and M was still out as he had planned a 6 mile run. My mom was on the phone and cleaning the blinds in her breakfast room (isn't it weird the details you can recall?). I looked at the ginormous TV in the living room and saw smoke coming from one of the Towers. I walked back into the kitchen and asked my mom what was going on. She had no idea. I flipped on the TV in the kitchen and we stood watching it Tower smoke. M walked in and I told him what I knew, which was nothing really and he came up behind me. We were all staring at the small TV, listening to Matt Lauer talk about an apparent freak accident when the second plane hit the other Tower. My mom grabbed my arm and uttered a shocked "Oh my god" before dropping down into a chair. M wrapped his arms around me and said quietly "This is not an accident. This was planned. We've been attacked." I started crying right then. I cried as I watched reports of other planes crashing. I cried as I wondered where every person I'd ever met was. I cried as I took a shower. I cried as I watched people leap from the Towers, the Towers crumble one after the other, as people ran from the debris and as people begged on camera for news of their missing brother, father, son, sister, mother, daughter, husband, wife. At one point I wondered if I'd ever cry again after all I had cried that day. Surely I was using up every tear my body could produce. I remember watching the news anchors, generally stoic no matter what, tear up and their voices break. That was somehow more frightening to me than almost anything. It was the longest day I can remember. And in such vivid detail. I know my brain stores everything, but it rarely recalls anything with such clarity. Not my wedding day, not the day I graduated college, not even the day Indy was born a little less than a year after the attacks. That day though, that one beautiful Tuesday, I can see in my mind as clearly as if it were yesterday.

Those who know me, know I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. Almost sickening really. There's a quote from one of the books (written more than a year before the attacks) that always strikes me as incredibly appropriate for remembering this day:

"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are
divided...Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our
aims are identical and our hearts are open."
-Prof. Albus Dumbledore
JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
(p.723, Scholastic Press, New York, 2000)

Never Forget. God Bless America.

6 comments:

The Newbie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories and for sacrificing your husband for our freedom. You military families are amazing in my eyes! My sister's husband served in Iraq and I have several cousins that have had to go back and forth. I am so grateful for all of you. :)

Laura said...

I have never commented before on your blog, but this made me cry today. I am a brand new military person, I fell in love with an army boy just in time for him to get deployed this year. Not his first deployment (3rd since 9-11) but because of him for some reason this 9-11 hit me harder then before, it is more real in my world.
thanks for posting, now I know I'm not the only one that feels that way.

Whiner said...

Hmmm I tried to e-mail you back but I don't think it worked, my e-mail is laurathehistorychick@gmail.com if you still want to e-mail me
*grin*

Rachel@oneprettything.com said...

Beautiful words and lovely thoughts... Thanks for sharing that quote as well!

Cherry's Jubilee said...

HI just wanted to say what you said really touched me. I have never been to your blog but enjoyed it. I can see you like to decorate as much as I do. cherry

tales from an O.C. cottage said...

Great post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

M ^..^

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