This is not a topic I like to discuss. Not outright. Not in detail. It is the epitome of the Big Giant Elephant in the living room. The big issue that everyone will skirt but rarely confront head on. It has been 6 years. And yet, if I sit quietly and focus, the emotions from that horrible, beautiful day are still there. Not quite as raw. Not quite as fresh.
But still there.
Everyone remembers where they were. So do I. That was the day my life changed along with everyone else's. I became, on that day, a wartime military spouse. I joined my Grandmother in that legion. It is a club that few, if any, long to be a part of yet are proud of their membership.
We were in Alaska. About as far away from New York and the Pentagon as you can get and still be in the United States. MacGyver had come home from PT and was in the shower. I was on 1/2 days leading up to maternity leave and didn't have to be to school until 11am that day. My alarm went off and it was set to the local country station. When it went off, I slapped at the snooze button. About a half second after I hit the snooze button, my brain registered what the DJ had said..."a plane has crashed into the Pentagon. No word on casualties yet. This, in addition to the World Trade Center...".
I remember the words verbatim.
I sat bolt upright in bed and lunged for the radio and turned it back on and sat there for what felt like minutes but was actually more like seconds listening to the DJ go on about the events that had unfolded thousands of miles away while I slept.
MacGyver shut the shower off and I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. I about ran into him as he came out and told him (like millions of other people said that day), "You have to go downstairs and turn on the TV. Planes have hit the Pentagon and the World Trade center." That is all I could get out. I still couldn't wrap my brain around what I had heard and it would be days...weeks, even...before I was able to do so.
We went downstairs - MacGyver still dripping wet in his towel and me, 10 months pregnant - and turned on the television. We just stood there. I can still feel the sensation of my mouth literally hanging open. I kept closing it and it kept falling open. And we just watched.
Finally, MacGyver said something about maybe now not being the best time to bring a child into the world. I said something back to the effect that it was a little too late for that thought. He then started moving very quickly to get dressed and get to work. I remember him grabbing his A and B bags, not knowing if he would be home. We discussed that as well as whether I would even be able to get off post. He suggested I call the MP station and find out and ran through what documents I would need in order to get through the gate should they post guards. I made sure I had my military ID with me.
It's funny, I do not go ANYWHERE without my military ID anymore. In fact, I cannot remember the time when I didn't carry it with me at all times. But before 9.11, I didn't take it with me 9 times out of 10. There was no need unless I was heading to the commissary/PX, the doctor's office, or planning to come back on post after 11pm when they would have guards at the main gate checking for drunk drivers. Now I feel naked without it.
I called the MP station and, at that point, they did not even have guards at the gate. So I headed into work and I remember driving out the main gate thinking that life would not be the same when I drove back through that gate later that afternoon. I arrived at school and walked around, like everyone else, in a daze. Kids were crying. Teachers were crying.
I couldn't cry. I just couldn't. Shock will do that to you.
School ended and we made it through swim practice, barely. No one was able to focus. I headed home and it literally took me 3 hours to get through the gate. We sat on the couch and just stared at the television, trying to wrap our brains around what had happened. Our friends canceled their daughter's birthday party and we all just kind of stood around, not really knowing what to do, what to think, or where to go. Not like we could GO anywhere since all flights were canceled. The skies were eerily quiet and it was odd to think that there wasn't a plane in the sky anywhere over U.S. airspace at that point in time.
My parents know where they were the day JFK was shot. I know where I was on 9.11. The days and months and years prior to that will always be seen, in my mind, with a rose-colored tint. Not because they were perfect or idyllic but because they were the "before".
And I will always, always, always remember.
A part of me died that day. I'm sure many feel the same way. It was the end of something. Innocence? Maybe. Peace? No. Illusion? Possibly. Regardless, it was the end. Have we lost sight of that day? Have we lost sight of the pain, the emotion, the resolve? The unity? Possibly. I don't know and today, I don't care to know. I just remember.
Father Mike, I hope you're still down there, fighting fires, trying to keep us all out of hell. We miss you.
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