Everyone in my parents’ generation remembers exactly what they were doing when President Kennedy was shot. Everyone in mine, and probably my kids’, will remember what they were doing on 9-11-2001.
We’d lived in Texas a couple of months and were planning a trip to San Antonio. I don’t remember what all we planned to do, aside from the River Walk and the Alamo, but we were looking forward to several days of leisure. We didn’t bother with alarm clocks that morning; we were going to leave when we got around to it but were shooting for noon. Then my mom called and told me to turn on the TV. The first tower was gone, and we watched in horror as the second fell.
We debated about what to do–leave now for our trip, or stay home? We really wanted to go, to escape if we could, but we didn’t know then how wide-spread the attacks were and going to a city didn’t seem safe. In the end, the military decided for us. They canceled all leaves and locked down the base, so the only thing left for me to do was cancel our hotel reservations and pray. We racked up a lot of long-distance calls that day.
I don’t necessarily agree with what’s come out of the aftermath of that day. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on far longer than any of us would like. While I wish it would end and we could bring our troops home, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that we’ll still have a presence of some kind over there when Alex retires from the military. Don’t laugh–we’re still in Germany, England, South Korea and Japan. There are no easy answers, and I don’t think anyone running for any office in America this year is qualified to straighten it out.
The bottom line for me is that we fight them there, or we fight them here. They’ve proven they can get to us. The Patriot Act and stepped-up security won’t protect us. I sent my husband into harm’s way, and it will scare the b’jeebers out of me to send my son but I won’t be the only mom losing sleep. I know what it is to fear the sound of a car pulling up in the driveway, to be afraid to look out and see the staff car and a chaplain. Eighteen years later my hands are trembling just thinking about it.
Desert Storm made me stronger, and in my mind 9-11 is a pivotal point between Desert Storm and whatever they’re calling the conflict now. They’re not separate for me, although I know 9-11 probably would have happened whether we’d gone to bat for Kuwait or not. In the years since I’ve learned not to think too far ahead. I’ve also learned to look back, to remember, to learn, to not flinch from the memory of pain and fear. I’ve learned that our children need first-hand accounts because the media skews the facts. I shudder to think what text books will say about 9-11 in forty years.