Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Years Later

It's hard to believe the attacks of 9-11 took place 11 years ago. At times it seems so far in the past and other times it feels like just last week. Somewhere, I have a journal that I began to write my feelings those first few weeks. In the move, it has gotten set aside to who knows where. It's not complete though. I got to a point where I felt it was too sad to continue writing. I realized today that I have not yet recorded my thoughts. For now, I will share my "Where I was" story from memory.

At the time, I worked at the Seymour Johnson AFB Base Chapel (in North Carolina) as the Religious Education Coordinator. Hubby was working mid shift on the flightline. He got home around 7 and I went to work after taking our son to school. I was in my office when my coworker Beth told me to come to the break room to see what was on the news. I thought she was joking when she said a plane hit the World Trade Center. I remember thinking, "They are huge towers, how can you miss them." As we are watching, the second plane hit the second tower. We know for sure, this was no accident. We both get on the phones to call our husbands. I know mine will have to wake up after not much sleep and head into work. If those F-15s are to get in the air, he'll need to be there. No answer. He must be sleeping very soundly. I call the neighbor to ask her to bang on the door and wake him up. She had no clue what was happening either. They called from the main Chapel to tell us we were to secure the building and head home until further notice. My office was right by the flightline. Every single time those Fighters took off I felt proud. That feeling intensified that day. I knew that they were up there patrolling the skies to keep our country from further harm.

My neighbor woke up my husband and just told him to call me. She didn't tell him what was going on. As I was telling him what had happened, the Pentagon was hit. I have never felt so scared in my life. We lived on a very active military base. Was there a chance we would be hit? Would the entire base soon we on lock down and we wouldn't be able to go anywhere? Our son's school was 20 minutes away. I called to tell them I was on the way to pick him up. The receptionist said, "Yes ma'am you can come pick up your child but we are not closing school today." I said, "You didn't get what I was saying. I am coming to get him no matter what. Please have him ready. I live on base and am not risking him not being able to get home after school." No way was I having my 10 year old be at school, possibly scared and not able to get to him. When we arrived at the school, some of the teachers were in the lounge watching the news. A friend of ours said they only told the kids that something happened that they needed to find out more information. They wanted to allow the parents to inform their children. When our son asked, "Daddy, what happened?" I remember looking up at the sky and seeing what a beautiful, clear blue sky it was. Such a beautiful day marked by such tragedy. My husband said, "Some very bad people did some horrible things today to a lot of people." Today, eleven years later, the sky was just as blue and beautiful.

My mom finally got in touch with me later that afternoon. She wanted to know what the Air Force was doing about this. Don't laugh. OK, go ahead, I did and I still do. She often asks me what the Air Force is doing in certain situations. My standard reply is, "Ya know mom, they just keep forgetting to call and clear everything with me. I have no idea what their plans are." However, on that day I told her that they were making sure we were safe. She asked if she should drive from Texas to North Carolina to stay with us in case anything else happened. I remember saying, "Mom, you are safer where you are than here with us. This base has F-15s and C-130s. We might just be a target. We are "Fourth but First" meaning if anything bad happens, these jets go take care of business. They are already in the air."

When we got home, we had the kids go play in their rooms so we could watch the news. So much devastation. So much pain. So much sadness. So much anger caused this tragedy. How could anyone do this? Why would anyone do this? What sick twisted mind could things of something so horrific as to target innocent citizens? All I could do was cry.

Those next few days, we as a country pulled together. We all agreed this was not right. We would not let them get us down. We would not let terrorists win. We came together as a unified country. Living on base, you are used to neighbors having flags displayed. What was new now was all the homes off base proudly displaying flags. The local newspaper even printed a full page, full color flag. Many businesses and homes put those paper flags in their windows as well as actual flags. If only people were still that patriotic. If only they still supported our military who are only doing the jobs they are told to do. If only our troops did not have to go to foreign lands and give their lives. If only terrorists never came to our country with the sole intent to do us harm. If only....

Eventually, everyone went back to working normal hours. There were still big changes on base. Security coming into the base was stronger. There were now cement barricades we had to swerve around every time we drove in and out of the gates. Parking was moved away from the buildings. More cement barricades were installed. The Chapel was open 24/7 for anyone of any faith to come in to talk, pray or just contemplate. Our Chaplains and Assistants that went to provide aid at the Pentagon came home. We got to hear their stories and how this event moved and changed them. More active duty were sent on deployments. This was nothing new to us. The reason why they were going was new. My husband was one who went. At one of our weekly meetings, I told the Chaplains, "Do not come to my door." They looked confused and asked what I meant. I said, "If something happens and you have to inform me, do not come to my home. Wait until I come to work. Home is our safe happy place and I don't want my kids seeing that happen." They assured me where my husband was going that chances were slim anything would happen. I'm sure those families of everyone in the Towers that day thought they worked in a safe place too. I am thankful they never had to come to my door. I am proud of the job my husband did. I am proud of the job we all did. I am proud to have worked on base during that time. I am proud to be an Air Force wife. I am proud to be an American.