Anyone and everyone over the age of mid-twentish or so can remember where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. I’ve heard countless stories and read countless accounts. I’m no different. Being married to the military, I can remember where and what for more dates and events than I care to discuss, but anyone and everyone can identify with the terror which permeated every inch of the American fiber the morning we watched buildings falling, planes being driven into targets, toxic dust clouds spreading as though a volcano had erupted, people running for their lives, and heroes running the opposite direction of those fleeing.
My story is pretty simple compared to most, even with being married to a military man. I had dropped our son off at school that morning and laid back down for a bit as I was nursing the headache from hell. When I woke not an hour later, I discovered my answering machine was maxed out with frantic voices, none of which really clarified what was the matter only asking if we were okay and where was MarshFox. The last one I listened to really caught my attention as my mother-in-law all but demanded I turn on my television. When I did, it was at that exact moment the second tower fell. I watched in a daze, wondering exactly what I was watching and if some kook had taken over the airwaves much as Orsen Wells did in 1938 with the panic-inducing broadcast of Invasion from Mars. I remember thinking, this can’t be real. For a while, I think I was actually shocked numb. Then the reality of it all set in, and I went into worst case scenario mode. I attempted to call MarshFox to get as much info as I assumed at the time he had, to no avail, and pondered whether I should attempt to retrieve our child from school or if he was safer sheltering in place for the time being. When I finally heard from MarshFox around noon local time, it was with a conversation lasting all of a handful of words.
“I’m not entirely sure. We’re going into a meeting right now.”
“Are you coming home today?”
“I don’t know.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too…” And the line went dead.
Our child made it home safely from the middle school and the waiting game began. I’d learned early on in my marriage not to stay glued to a broadcast of anything resembling trouble. That move only creates anxiety and it scares the kids. So, we carried on as normally as possible with me answering our son’s questions as best I could and squashing rumors he’d heard at school. As it turned out, MarshFox did come home in the wee hours of the next morning. Two weeks later he was gone for some specialized training, and three months later he was in theater.
That day, we lost of a lot of heroes. We lost a lot of friends and family members. We lost our sense of security. We gained a lot of anger. The next day, September 12, 2001, we acted like a nation united. It was as if the United States had somehow been reborn from the fires of destruction. There was no such thing as race, creed, or religion. We acted as one. We respected one another. We loved. We waved our flag proudly.
Over the course of the past eighteen years, we’ve lost even more heroes who’ve gone to the front lines of this fight against global terrorism. We’ve lost more friends and family on the home shores as terrorists have made attempts to spread their hate and discontent at office buildings and even within the confines of our military bases. We’ve also lost whatever sparked us to act like the nation we are, can be, on the morning after. Rather than pulling together like we did those years ago, we’ve begun to pull each other apart. Gone are the days of respect for a flag which unites us. It saddens me. It concerns me. It seems it’s true that all things can be lost within the course of one generation. Over the course of the next 365 days, that generation born in the shadow and aftermath of a nation attacked will be turning eighteen. They don’t have memories of where they were when. They don’t have memories of what they were doing when. What will they have learned over the course of those eighteen years, and what will they do with those lessons now? What will they do to rekindle the spirit of America? What part will they play in knitting back the fiber of this nation’s fabric? How many will honor the fallen by becoming the next wave of heroes through service of some sort; paramedics, fire fighters, police officers, and military men and women? How many will choose to ignore what history can teach us, disregard what many of their parents and grandparents witnessed first-hand? I can’t help but ponder these things as we mark another year gone by since we were brought to our knees then stood shoulder to shoulder, then forgot.
Let us pray, in whatever way we each do that, today that we never awaken to scenes we only wish had been an Orson Wells broadcast. Let us live in hope that it never again takes something of that magnitude to bring us together no matter our differences.