Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

I'm sure everyone who's old enough to remember the events of September 11, 2001 can describe vividly the details of the day and how it's forever changed our nation. I am no exception...

TJ and I were living in California at the time. He was still in the Air Force, and I worked as an Administrative Assistant at the Regional Office of Marshalls Department Store. TJ woke up first, showered, and turned on the TV to watch the news as he ironed his uniform. I awoke to TJ telling me that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center, and I remember watching the TV while trying to process everything. Keep in mind, living in CA, we were 3 hours behind the East Coast so the first plane hit at 5:46am PT. We continued watching the news coverage, and like many, were horrified as we watched the second plane hit on live TV. Even to this day, as I watch the news footage, I still find myself thinking it looks more like a scene from a movie than reality.

We both readied ourselves for work and proceeded on with our morning. I had to be at work early that morning because some buyers from the TJX, Co. in Boston (parent company of Marshalls and TJ Maxx Stores) were flying into San Francisco that morning to tour the stores in our region that week. They were meeting with the Regional President, my boss, that afternoon. It wasn't until I got into the office that it occurred to me one of the planes that hit the WT Center was from Boston. I quickly checked my email for the flight information and was immediately brought to tears: they were dead, along with so many others.

As my co-workers arrived at the office, we gathered together and continued to watch the news of the day as it unfolded. Soon the first tower fell, then the second, and soon the phone calls were coming in from the home office regarding the deaths of the 3 buyers. It was just an all-around sad day. Families ripped apart at the blink of an eye. Loved ones never to be seen or heard from again. No time to say good-bye. No warning, no preparation.

Life changed for TJ and I after that day. TJ was supposed to get out of the AF the following March, but Stop-Loss was put in place. Stop-Loss meant TJ couldn't get out; he was being forced to extend his time in service. There was no set time frame, so we had no way to prepare. At least if he had re-enlisted, we'd know it was for another 4 years. Since his time was extended, we were at the mercy of the DoD.

Also the deployments started for the squadron to which we belonged. Although I was no longer in the AF, all of our friends were military and many were being deployed to places unknown even to them. Security, of course, was put into High alert so troops weren't told of where they were going until 12 hours prior to departure, at which time they were already at the squadron doing their out-processing. Again, families were ripped apart and loved ones were saying good-bye to their soldier not knowing how long they'd be gone, where they were going, or how soon they'd hear from them.

Base security also became an issue, and it was more difficult to have guests on base. Without a military ID, people were being turned away from the gate. Also, personally speaking, my own sense of security was shaken to the core. Anything could happen at anytime, and I didn't feel safe outside the walls of the base. I only went off base when it was necessary, and it took some time for me to feel safe again.

TJ and I had plans to fly to Florida that October to go visit his grandmother. We weren't able to make the trip because he wasn't able to take leave. The squadron was pretty much empty because of all the deployments, but I was thankful he wasn't in a job that deployed (he was working in the computer office at this time).
I think it's important to remember the events of September 11, 2001. Soon enough it will be another day in history, much like Pearl Harbor Day and D-Day. Future generations, particularly those born after 9/11, can only learn about the significance of that day from those of us who experienced it first-hand.

So, to all of the lives lost on that day and in the days since, your sacrifice was not in vain. Our country is a better nation as a result. President George W. Bush read this letter at today's commemoration ceremony, and I agree it is very appropriate:
Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.


Dear Madam,--

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln

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