Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Decade Past

Ten years ago I was sitting in my barracks room, dreading having to go into work on my day off to study for my Career Development Course exams.  It was a gorgeous day, and I was in an otherwise great mood because I had just gotten approval to move out of the barracks into my own apartment out in town.  I flipped on the TV, then called my mom.  I remember not quite really knowing how to say good-bye to her in that phone call, because how do you say, "I'll talk to you later" while your country is being pummeled with attack after attack and not knowing when it's going to end?  But I hung up the phone and, despite everything, drove to the annex where I worked to start studying.  Once I got there (a little over an hour after we were attacked), the base was locked down and I was studying for much longer than I originally intended.  A few hours later, they escorted a few of us back to our cars, and I drove back to the base where my barracks were located.  My car was searched.  My ID was checked.  Up until this point my military career, as long as I had a base sticker on my car, the gate guard would wave me through without stopping.  In the decade since the attack I have always had a base sticker on my car, but I've never been waved through the gate again.  There is always a stop now to show my ID.  The next day it took me two hours to get into work two miles away because of the searching of each and every car.  I was late for my exam, but it hardly seemed important, even after months of studying and preparing.  It took me another two hours to get home to my barracks.  For more than a week my 5 minute commute became 120 minutes each way, and sitting in my car all that time listening to news report after news report, my inconvenience seemed trivial.

My then boyfriend was just back from shore liberty, on the USS Peleliu in Australia, watching his country get attacked from afar.  I had just visited him in July to see him off.  In the airport I had walked with him to his gate!  Imagine, walking someone to their gate!  Their ship had left from San Diego a month before 9/11, on a routine "cruise" around the world, doing what Marines do:  training, training and more training.  Steve was an Arabic linguist at the time.  I had no way of contacting him any time soon.  E-mail was locked down, and he was in transit, so letters took weeks.  As soon as I realized what this attack meant for him and his friends aboard the ship I had what I think of now as a rather embarrassing breakdown.  Luckily I lived alone, but I called my mother again, in tears, selfishly wondering how I was going to handle him being in combat.  At twenty, everything going on in the world seemed to revolve around how I felt about it and how it would affect me.  Given the navel gazing in this post, I suppose not much as changed, but then again I was planning on not writing this post for that exact reason.

I feel sort of silly, now, writing about where I was during all of what happened on 9/11/01.  Why does it matter where I was when so many were dead and suffering?  My husband came back from the war (and two years later he came home to me again after another war).  I am so blessed.  He was unscathed and we married and have two beautiful sons.  So why does it matter where I was?  When I think of that day I think of my insignificance and helplessness among all that suffering and trauma.  But it is hard to avoid the "where were you when" emotions and questions, especially among the blogosphere and on Facebook, so I came across this post in my reader just a bit ago and felt encouraged to write everything down after reading this:

I feel like I am finally able to admit, perhaps boldly, even though I did not personally suffer tragedy on 9-11, that we all suffered. I was traumatized. I never felt it fair to feel that or certainly not respectful to say so. I still feel so much grief and sadness when I think back to those raw emotions of watching the story play itself out, changing second by second, as I was transfixed for nearly 24 hours a day with a baby who barely even knew she was out of the womb let alone think it appropriate to ever sleep more than a few hours. So it was myself, Isabela, and the television all night long, so many nights. I would not let go of her. I needed her to need everything from me. And even though the contrast of what I was holding and what I was watching could not have been more opposed to one another, I am grateful that I was constantly reminded of the Good because of her precious, new innocence. Like a pill I had to take every three hours as I nursed her, to convince myself that there was still enough good, when I think so many of us questioned it. Didn't we? Thank God for good. So much of it all around us.
So I wrote down my story.  Even hearing the news and watching the memorial coverage today, so many who lost so much on 9/11 seem to have a story of redemption and courage and goodness that came in the next decade.  There is so much good here in this world, so much to be thankful for even amongst tragedy and heartbreak.  Remembering on a day like today and what happened 10 years ago, I am especially thankful that Love has conquered death.

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