Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11th Remembered

September 11, 2001 changed everything for our country. It changed everyone. It changed ME. 10 years ago I was watching September 11th unfold on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. I was a Navy wife. I lived on base and I also worked on base at a drop in daycare center for military families. That morning, I was getting ready for work and playing with my 10 month old son when I got a call. Turn on the TV. I did, and like the rest of America, watched as planes fell from the sky, the two towers fell to the ground and our world changed forever. I knew in that moment, life would be different. Not just for America, not just for New York, but for ME personally. It sounds selfish, but seeing something happening across the country and knowing it was directly affecting you, is a weird feeling. My husband at the time was less than a year from getting out of the Navy & that day I was told that may not happen that soon. I started getting phone calls. Did I feel safer ON the base or OFF? Was our base a target? I really didn’t know. 

I called work. They were preparing to close the daycare. The base was locking down – could I come in and let those who lived off base go home? Sure. My mind wandered to the babies and toddlers we often watched at the daycare. Most of the children in this drop in day care were there because one of their parents were gone on WESTPAC or “on float”, the typical 6 month overseas tour. Many parents were on the same tour and ready to return that month. When 9/11 hit, we were informed they were not returning in a month. They were extending their tour – indefinitely.

We closed down the daycare that day and returned home to watch the world unfold. The base increased its security to what was called at the time “DEFCON 3:” only necessary personnel and those who lived on base should be on the base. Getting off base was only an option if I didn’t want to get back on – the line apparently a two hour wait at times as each person and each ID was thoroughly checked. So I watched the news. And waited. I listened to see if what the media said matched the rumors we were hearing on base. I watched as they listed those first casualties of war so poignantly. My Navy husband and I would run the list of countless names of people we knew who were in the military overseas and hoping not to recognize a face or a name on that list. I didn’t expect that it would be me who would recognize a name – and not him…

It was one of the parents, a dad, at the daycare where I worked. I remember him because he was one of the few dad’s that wouldn’t just pick up his daughter, Amber, and run, but would stay a bit and play with her and the other young children before they would leave. After 9/11 he was sent to Afghanistan. He was on a helicopter that never made it home.

I saw his face on the television, hoping I was wrong, and thought of his sweet little girl. But the news was confirmed when I went into work the next day. Amber and her family, of course, were devastated. They withdrew Amber from the daycare almost immediately and I never saw her since, but I think of and pray for her often, hoping she’s okay.

In the days and months that passed, I cried with other wives as their husbands, having just returned from being gone months at a time, were preparing to be sent out again. I prayed alongside friends with certainty that God would give us peace in this situation and uncertainty with what kind of peace that meant. On my end, I guess I was lucky. My {now ex} husband ended up not going over to Afghanistan. He was given a choice: go to Afghanistan for 6 months and get out of the military when {or if – in our minds} he returned, or stay and extend his time in the military for 3 years. He chose to extend. That decision probably saved his life, but ended our marriage. He was transferred to another base nearby and he was miserable. For three years he took his misery out on me and our boys, both physically and mentally. I used to wonder ‘what if’, but not anymore. But I do think about Amber and all the other Ambers out there and how 9/11 changed their lives forever. I know that the small side effects of 9/11 in my life remotely compare to the heartache and loss of those in Afghanistan, the Pentagon, Flight 93, or New York.

I read that people on the streets in New York, when the twin towers collapsed, described the dust cloud as “darker than they knew dark could be… the kind of dark you can feel.” I think that can be a metaphor to how we feel when horrible things like this happen. Those feelings, that darkness, can easily consume us, destroy us -suffocate us. So where is God in all this? It’s easy to think in these times that He’s left us, but God often uses tragedy and tough times to reveal himself to us - if you look for Him. God says you only need to look at the church {that’s us!} to see His love. You only need to look at those who love Him to see His peace. You only need to look at those who DID survive these tragedies to see His compassion. You only need to look at how life has gone on to see His grace.

And so, 10 years later, I still pray: for our world, for all those affected by September 11th even now, for our children and for our future. Because I am raising two children who only remember 9/11 from what we tell them. And so, I will never forget.

{From Google images}

Where were you on September 11, 2001? How did it change you? Will you be remembering September 11th in any special way this weekend? 

I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:20-23 (NIV)


Tonia @ said...

Thankfully I was not directly impacted by 9/11 but have said many a prayer for those who were. I am so sorry to hear about the toll it took on your ex and therefore on you and your boys!

Kari said...

Wow, how powerful. Thanks for sharing your story, I read every word and was captivated.

I was walking my then 1 year old down the street to the neighbor's house to go for our morning walk when I pulled in her driveway she ran out yelling that there is something going on and the Twin Towers were hit. We watched in horror while our two little toddlers played obliviously.

I left my husband a year later because I was unhappy for so long and knew that my life was short and my daughter and I deserved better. It was the best decision I ever made.

Lots of love and hugs to you. :)

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