Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11

Our morning routine was almost set in stone.  Chip would wake up around 5:30 and go to PT.  Brenna, who was only a few months old, would hear him and demand to be fed.  I'd lay her in bed next o me and nurse her back to sleep, and then fall back asleep myself.  I loved snuggling with her.  I loved everything about being a new mom.  And this morning seemed as normal as any other.  We snuggled, she slept, and after a little while, I finally fell asleep.  I didn't know that the world as I had known it, was about to be drastically changed.

I woke up shortly after I had fallen asleep because Chip had come home early.  In my half awake state, I didn't understand what he was asking.  No, I didn't have any family in NY.  I was mildly irritated that he felt this stupid question was important enough to wake me up to ask it, even after I'd been up several times with the baby while he got to sleep peacefully all night.  Another seemingly stupid question followed that one.  No, I do not have any family in Pennsylvania.  Why in the world is this important at 6am?  By this time, I was sitting up, Brenna was waking up, and I was officially annoyed.  And then he broke the news to me.

A terrorist attack.  In OUR country.  With OUR planes.  That killed OUR innocent civilians.
He informed me that the base was at FPCON Delta.  I had seen the signs at the front gate on post, but had never seen anything but Alpha, and had no idea what Delta meant.  He'd been sent home early, since most of his unit wasn't on base, and it was taking several hours for people to get through the front gate.  I ran downstairs and turned on the tv.  We sat there in silence for a few minutes, watching in horror at those images.  I was 19 when the towers fell, and 6000 miles from home with a new baby and a soldier husband.  I cannot express how isolated and scared I felt at that moment. It was so early in Alaska, and I was in such shock that I didn't understand that the images I was seeing on tv were not live images, but in fact had taken place several hours before.  I called family and friends in an effort to reach out to people to perhaps feel some sort of safety in the midst of this chaos.  I clutched Brenna as if letting go of her meant losing her, and then I cried at the thought of being stupid enough to bring a child into this crazy and unpredictable world.  And then I looked at Chip, and wondered what this meant as far as the military. I truly and honestly thought WWIII was imminent.

That day changed the life of every American.  We could probably all play that six degrees game and somebody knows somebody who died that day, or who was in NYC.  I didn't know anybody personally who died that day, but as an American, I think I can safely say that I feel the loss.  Not only a sense of personal loss of all those lives, but the loss of life as I knew it.

I can clearly remember a pre- 9/11 and a post-9/11.  Things changed that day for the good and the bad.  It's interesting to me how much the course of my life changed because of that day.  Instead of getting out of the army, Chip reenlisted.  We were first told that he would do a 6 month tour in Afghanistan.  I remember how terrified I was of that thought.  And now I chuckle, after having been told, "The good news is, no 6 month deployment to Afghanistan - the bad news is, a 13 month deployment to Iraq."

I cried that day for so many reasons.  My heart broke for all the families and friends of those who were lost.  I gained a whole new respect for the firefighters and police officers who ran into those towers to help with no thought of personal safety.  You always see the firetrucks go by but you never really think about them.  I'd always say a prayer for whoever they were going to help.  Now, I say a prayer for them all.  I cried out of fear and anger and confusion.  But, when the tears were gone, I was ready for a fight.  That day I discovered a pride and a love for this country that I can't even begin to describe.  I'd always known how lucky I was to be an American, but that day I APPRECIATED it. 

On the 10th Anniversary of that day, I look back not with the fear and anger of a young mother, but with pride and honor at being able to call myself an American.  Our country is a great country.  We have so much to be grateful for.  We have the freedom to pursue our dreams, to speak our minds, to live our lives.  And our country is so beautiful!  I've not been everywhere, but I've seen so much.  I've seen the Chicago skyline, the Appalachian mountains, the Ohio river, Lake Michigan, Mt. McKinley, the northern lights, a Hawaiian sunset, Mt. Rainier and Mendenhall glacier.  I love this country!

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