September 11th. Earlier this week, as I was skipping through blogs, someone(and I'm sorry I can't find it again to give proper credit for the idea) forwarded the idea 'You know, we didn't do a ten year memorial after Pearl Harbor...because we had already gotten our payback. The Japanese lost, so did Bin Laden. Time to move on.'
That is a good point, and I can't say I'm going to do a 9/11 post 'just because everyone else is doing it', because NOT everyone else is doing it. I'm not as cool as Tam though, and since I didn't have this blog going last year until after 9/11, well...I guess I can talk real quick about it.
I was driving to work when it happened, at the Trident Submarine Base, in Bangor, Wa. I was still in uniform then. The initial stories were just kind of making the radio news while I was heading in...I was through the security gates at base prior to any change in security status. I WOULDN'T be able to say that on the way home. I'm not a government intelligence agent, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night...when then reports changed from one building, to both buildings...could it have been anything other than deliberate?
Everyone was whispering about the news reports, and we had one of the computers at work constantly refreshing on one of the news channels. I believe I called my wife shortly after arriving at work, and woke her up and told her to turn on the news.
What I remember the most from that morning is the confusion on the news. Folks were getting calls from their wives: 'There are still SIX planes out of contact'...initial casualty estimates of 50,000 when The Towers actually collapsed...yeah...No One had any clue what was really going on.
Other than the confusion, the only other thing that really hit me hard then, and has stuck with me until now, is sadness for the folks that died. NOT ONE of the victims left their house that morning thinking that was going to be their last day. They headed out the door to go to work thinking: 'Well, at least it's not Monday!' 'One Day closer to the weekend' and 'Remember to get bread and milk on the way home'....Just like I did every day on the way to work.
I know when it comes to my own personal behavior, one of the few lasting things I changed after 9/11 was giving my wife a kiss every morning before I left the house. I might have occasionally done it pre-9/11, but 9/11 drove home to me, more than anything, that every day could be your last.
There were hero's that day...and I pray that if I ever find myself in a similar situation, I would Do The Right Thing...run to the sound of the guns, help people get out...rush the cockpit. But...until it actually happens, you don't know. I saw more than one guy in the Navy who did fine during countless drill FREEZE when something actually started going wrong. It happens...The folks on Flight 93 DID the Right Thing. The firefighters and other first responders DID the Right Thing.
I also spent a long time thinking about the phone calls. The cell phone calls from folks trapped above the plane crashes, the last phone calls from the folks on Flight 93...what do you say? What kind of voice mail message do you leave to sum it all up? You can't...you have to leave that message everyday. The folks leaving the messages were the lucky ones.
About 6 years ago, I guy I knew(can't say he was a friend, but I worked with him) was killed on the way into work. He also lived in the town of Belfair, so 95% of his commute was the same as mine. He was bombing along into work, and some dude high on more than life, crossed the center line, and wiped him out. By all the accident reports, it was over fast...combined closing speed of 110MPH, car vs. truck. Tom was heading into work on a Thursday, thinking 'only one more day of this' and then...gone. Wife and two kids left behind...when was the last time he told them he loved them? Did he go to bed not talking to his wife after a 'heated discussion'? Did he crack his kids door open to peak at them before heading off?
Life is full of horrible, horrible things...and sometimes those things happen to good people...people who had no clue it was coming, until it's already done. That is what I took away from 9/11. I knew we were going to get the folks who did it, sooner or later(wish it had been much sooner)...so I didn't take away a whole lot of anger.
And that's what I did on my summer vacation!