Like so many Americans, today I find myself looking back to the day my world stood still. I remember exactly where I was at the time. I was serving with the 48th Infantry Brigade in Macon, Georgia. It was a rare morning when I arrived at work before my coworker. She came through the door and asked if I’d heard anything on the radio. There was a brief report about some plane hitting the World Trade Center.
What? Planes don’t crash into buildings. It had to be some sort of freak accident.
We quickly tried to look things up online but the traffic to all the news sites that day was unprecedented. When we finally connected and watched the video, it was clear, this was no accidental crash. Moments later, the second plane hit. Our country was under attack. I stepped into the Colonel’s office and told him the news.
As you can imagine, things escalated fairly quickly from there. I called my husband, who was a police officer working the evening shift. He normally wouldn’t wake for several more hours, but on 9/11 normal schedules were abandoned. Then I called my parents. They wouldn’t turn on the television until the late afternoon or evening so they hadn’t heard the news either. I made arrangements for them to watch my daughter.
On that day, I was a pregnant service member with a young daughter. My husband was a veteran and a police officer. We were your typical, public service family with too many bills to pay and not nearly enough money to pay them. And in the blink of an eye, everything we’d been trained for and thought would never happen was coming true.
I was terrified. Not for me, per se. But for my kids, my daughter and my unborn son. For my husband who would be thrust into harms way within a few hours. And for the rest of my family who were honest, hard working individuals just out trying to make a good life for their families.
And I was furious! I wanted vengeance against the bastards who attacked our country and those who celebrated the attack. I wanted them to suffer. I wanted them destroyed.
I don’t remember the exact chain of events that unfolded over the next few days and weeks. Things were a bit of a whirlwind. I do remember the eerie silence in the skies. I lived south of Atlanta in one of the major approach patterns for Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Not seeing daily planes overhead was surreal. I also remember attending a prayer vigil in downtown Macon. All the churches participated, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Greek Orthodox. and Jewish. There was a brief memorial service in each of the churches followed by a prayer vigil in the downtown area. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians — it didn’t matter what ethnicity you were. On that day we were all Americans. And we all held each other and cried for the attack on our nation.
My son was born about four months later. He’s a freshman in high school now and he’s learning about 9/11 as a historical event. His sister who is six years older remembers the day very well. She lived through it as a young child. It’s certainly a day she’ll never forget. As we remember the 15th anniversary of that tragic day, she is serving as an active duty Marine.
A lot has changed in our country since that day. A lot of people have forgotten the pain caused on that morning. In some ways, that’s a part of the healing process. We have to let go of some of the pain in order to move forward.
In other ways, that’s a bad thing. Many have forgotten that we are all, in fact, Americans. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, when tragedy strikes, we all bleed red. We all feel pain, sorrow, anger, pride, and happiness. These emotions aren’t limited to the color of our skin. These are universal characteristics that everyone experiences.
America has problems. We always have. That’s as true today as it was two hundred years ago. We’re not a perfect country. We probably never will be. That doesn’t mean we can’t strive for perfection.
But that does mean we shouldn’t ignore all the wonderful things that make our country great. Ours is a free country. We have rights and privileges that millions of other people throughout the world only dream about. We have a plethora of natural resources and the ability to sustain ourselves.
And we have chutzpah in the face of adversity. We may fight among ourselves from time to time, as all families will, but let someone else try to attack us. We’ll unite and face that challenge with a mighty force.
I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud of our flag. I will never sit down as long as the Anthem is played unless I’m no longer physically able to stand. And I will NEVER apologize for that pride. I love my country. I love my fellow Americans. Some of them make me mad sometimes. Some of them make me want to say bad words sometimes. But I still love them. They’re my family. They’re my countrymen.
So, today, as we look back, let’s not forget that we’re also united. We’re Americans. We live in the greatest country in the world.
God Bless all those individuals who lost their lives 15 years ago. God Bless all the men and women in uniform who strive daily to protect our freedoms. And God Bless this wonderful country of ours!