Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I rifled back through my archives, because I was certain I'd recounted my version of this story before, but apparently, I haven't.
All of us remember exactly where we were on that morning, and the people who were with us, 12 years ago today. The routines we were wrapped up in, the normalcy of yet another Tuesday morning. I was a sophomore in high school, and joyously slept in that morning due to a late morning doctor's appointment. I groggily crawled out of bed to slump to the shower, absentmindedly flipping the TV on, as I'd done every morning to get my dose of news before school. Suddenly I was hearing harried reports of the chaos that had ensued in Manhattan, and I found my dad in the living room, to tell him what I heard. He instantly knew it was terrorism. My endlessly wise dad, abounding with knowledge of all things foreign affairs, shakily replied that this was terrorism. At the time, news anchors were still earnestly reporting the possibility that this was a fluke accident--tragic, but an accident nonetheless. No, my dad knew it was much, much worse.
Within several minutes, I was shouting through the bathroom door to my dad that a second plane had smashed into the tower. His initial thought was spot-on. We spent the remainder of the morning--the car ride to the doctor, the eerily quiet stay in the waiting room, the duration of my appointment, and the rest of the day, solemnly silent--fearing what would happen next. As the days and weeks unfolded beyond that, it was as if we were finding answers, and yet none at all.
Many of you--most of my friends, too--your versions of this story have you in a classroom, surrounded by your equally clueless friends--the portrait of innocence... a constant reminder of how young we all were, how this tragic, heinous event will mark our lives forever. I am endlessly grateful that I was with my dad all day, that day. While we definitely discussed the goings-on of that day as they played out, there was something calming about his silence. I felt so safe, tucked under his proverbial wing. In a way, I sort of mark that day as a milestone in growing up. I remember knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that life would never be the same.
And in the questionable months and years that unfolded beyond that, as cheesy as it sounds, we discovered masses of heroes throughout the uncertainty. Two of my brothers joined the ranks of our incredibly military just a couple of years after September 11th--knowing they'd have a front row seat to defending terrorism. The night that President Bush announced that we were at war, I was perched on the end of my parents' bed, attentively soaking up every word of his address. My sweet Pops--my constant picture of fortitude--kissed me on the forehead and left the room. Again--a moment that will never leave my mind, not as long as I live. When I think of how people discuss the countless casualties of the this war, or how long it has lasted, or any of the number of horrific circumstances it's shrouded in, I am 15 again, and experience all over, the haunting feeling that even the warmth and familiarity of my childhood home couldn't keep me safe from this world.
The phrase "defending terrorism" is so overly-touted. The majority of us won't ever really know what defending terrorism truly means. But my brothers do. Millions of men and women do. "Hero" is another word that seems to get thrown out there a lot... but my brothers are my heroes. My dad is my hero. My dad served in the Air Force for 20 years, and each of my brothers served for 4, respectively. I hail from a military family--all of my dad's siblings and his father represented our military. My dad made a point to keep us informed of what was going on in our world, from a really early age. Even now, amidst the crisis in Syria, and any other foreign affairs issue, he's the first person I talk to. He always gives me the need-to-know background so I am equipped to make my own judgment calls. I love that about our relationship. I love that he's my guy.
I've covered a range of tangents here, I know... but my gist is this: never forget. Don't ever, ever forget. Don't ever let yourself forget the shock of seeing tragedy unfold. Don't forget the men and women who don a uniform day in and day out, all for the sake of a free country. Don't forget the ones who have died. It's when we forget that we get complacent... and the selfless people who have given their all deserve far, far more than that.
And despite everything, I'm still so, so very proud to call this country my home.