It’s our generation’s “where were you when…“.
I was running around that morning, dodging family members who filled the house and coordinating last minute details for a huge celebration that coming Saturday. Trying to jockey for time in the shower with early morning phone calls and grabbing sips of coffee in between the activity around me. It was just a few days from our big church wedding. There was still so much to do!
And then the first plane hit.
My grandmother was staying with us, as my grandfather had just had quadruple bypass surgery. Nothing like lots of additional drama the week of a wedding, right? She was sitting in the living room, with a TV tray of breakfast in front of her. I remember her Midwest-accented voice saying “Oh my gosh! That plane ran into that building! I can’t believe it!”
And the second plane hit.
None of us could believe what we were seeing. Especially my husband, who was a young officer in the military at the time. He stood silent, transfixed, knowing immediately that even that first plane’s trajectory was no accident. As the day unfolded, he was restless, anxious for more information, but knowing he had no way of doing a darned thing. See, he wasn’t just on leave (vacation, for your non-military types) from an assignment, but in between two as we scheduled the wedding in between moving from one duty station to the next. That meant that, while 2 of our bridal party were being recalled to their duty stations, my husband had nowhere to be recalled TO.
As a result of this “in between” status, he was left out of the the frenzied activity going on at every military and government installation around the globe. He was out of the loop and not able to “go to work” at the most critical time our nation had seen in decades, if not longer. He understood better than the rest of us in the house that morning that this marked a hard shift to a new reality for anyone in or connected to the military.
During the unfolding chaos on television, I tried to grasp at some normalcy by doing something simple. Something “normal”. I took a shower. My husband poked his head in the door and solemnly stated “A plane just hit the Pentagon.” As I stood there under the pounding water, I cried. I cried for all of the insanity unfolding in the world. I cried for all of the people who I didn’t know, but who were lost to their families. I cried because I was confused, scared, and pissed off.
When the final plane went down in that Pennsylvania field, like so many others I was now near raging at the horrific reality being thrust upon our nation. Answers and anger. That’s where I was.
At that point, the wedding seemed like a trivial thing, a waste of precious time and effort when compared with the unknown reality ahead. Who cares if the flowers aren’t what we ordered? Who cares if the food isn’t what we planned? Who cares if not all of the invited guest could make it now (including the priest, who was a friend from the west coast)? Who cares if it’s not the “perfect day” we’re all told it’s supposed to be? Everyone we knew and loved were safe. Many others were not as fortunate as we. And we made sure to remember that as the days wore on.
Perspective is what I learned that day. And deep gratitude for the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day to protect those of us they have never even met. So many things that we all will never forget, but that remains one of the most important for me. Thank you to all of those who are first responders, military members, and the families that support them. Without them, we would never know comfort. We can never repay your selflessness, and we will never forget.
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