Friday, September 11, 2009
Not really a humorous day, is it?
I was stationed in California and it was just like any other day. I packed up the boys at 0530 PDT and drove to their caregiver's house. Her husband met me outside. I barely pulled up to the curb when he threw open the slider and said, "Give me the boys, you're on alert, we've been attacked." It was numbing. I had no idea what he was talking about--nothing was on the radio about it yet.
I drove the 20 miles to my squadron, searching for news. I ran into our maintenance office where they had set up a TV in time to see the footage of the second plane hitting the towers. All hell had just broken loose. We were locked down and none of us were sure if we were going to see our families anytime soon. We were told to prepare to go to deploying units (I was in a training command at the time) that were short-handed. All of us were numb. I think frightened also. I was stationed on the largest fighter base in the Navy. It was virtually unsecured by the surrounding farmland. You could take a dirt road for 10 minutes and be on the freeway. It was game time and you could feel it.
I was one of the lucky ones. My soon to be ex-husband deployed because he was in a deployable unit. I wound up working hellacious hours but going home to my kids every night. I remember holding them every night and having them sleep in my bed. I remember most a young kid of 19 that worked for me. By night, he delivered pizza. He came to deliver pizza three days later and told me he needed to talk to me. His mother, father, sister, brother and brother-in-law all worked in Tower One. He needed to go home. He never heard from them again. He went back to NYC to lay to rest fve empty coffins. This was on the heels of one of my guys losing his wife on the USS Cole a year earlier. It was a difficult time for my Navy family. I can only imagine those that were there first-hand.
In 2002, I received an email that was forwarded to me from the USS Constellation from a squadron commanding officer. It was entitled "Why We Do What We Do". I have searched my emails for it, but I think I printed it out and it's in an envelope somewhere. They were on a nine month deployment to the Gulf. They launched one of the first strikes. There is a picture of him in his cockpit, holding a photo of a woman. Her name was Sarah. His jet was painted with her name in remembrance on it. In fact, every jet in the squadron was painted in a remembrance scheme: FDNY, NYPD, names of those we knew and those we didn't. But Sarah? She was the wife of his intel officer. She was in the Pentagon. She was in one of the first offices hit. It was extremely close to home for that squadron. He flew with her picture every mission and reminded his men, "This is why we do what we do". I was honored to be the first woman in that same squadron the day they came off that deployment (the last airwing to integrate--I wish I wouldn't have had to wait). I had worked for him previously, but he more than recruited me with that email. He brought to light why I spent my adult life to that point "doing what I did".
September 11th should not be the "National Day of Service" with organizations like Acorn and the AFL-CIO leading the charge. It should remain the "National Day of Remembrance". Remembering the innocents that died, unexpectedly, going about their normal day. Talking to their spouses and parents, making plans for the evening, saying goodbye to their children for the last time as they headed to their daily lives. Remembering those innocents left behind because of cowards. And remembering my brave Brothers and Sisters in Arms that do what they do, every day, giving and not asking for much in return.