On 9/11/2011, I was a 2nd Lieutenant stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base. That morning my colleagues and I stood in our Commander’s office and watched the towers fall.
Shocked. Stunned. Scared. Moments etched forever in memory.
And then the day became a blur. The base went into complete lock-down. Everyone focused with intensity on their role.
We were the secure location the President was taken to but I, personally, felt anything but secure. I felt acutely vulnerable as we braced ourselves for the further attacks we feared might be coming.
I can remember thinking that everything has changed; nothing will ever be the same.
Shortly after 9/11, I was working a deployment line filled with men and women heading to Afghanistan. It was during the first rounds of post-911 deployments. While there was a renewed sense of purpose and energy in our military community, it was also a difficult time. Families had not yet grown accustomed to war.
One moment from that deployment line will always stay with me. The large room was filled with spouses, children, and parents having final moments with loved ones in uniform. It quickly became time to end the farewells. This was my job. I walked around the room making eye contact with the airmen or tapping them on their arms. They understood that I was telling them to say their final words, give the final hug, and walk out of the room. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones who understood. A little girl, maybe five or six-years old, watched me tap her father. She looked at me, burst into tears, and yelled, “NO!”
One week later, I found out I was pregnant. It was one of the most joy-filled moments of my life. And then I became that little girl.
No, I do not want my child born into a world where this can happen.
No, I do not want to raise my baby in a world that no longer feels safe.
No, I do not want to have to say goodbye to this little one I haven’t even met yet.
But here we are – eleven years later.
And with time comes perspective.
We all still raise our babies and live our lives in a world where terrible things happen. But it’s also a world where men and women ran towards those towers to save people. A world where passengers in Flight 93 exhibited bravery that defies explanation. A world where men and women put on uniforms every day with purposes like protect and defend.
And yet, like all of us who remember that day so vividly, my heart breaks again on 9/11 each year. Because so many will never get to write the words, “eleven years later.” So many in those towers and planes never knew that they were saying final goodbyes and giving final kisses. So many, both that day and in the years of war that have followed, never came home.
Because the world, while still so beautiful, is still so changed.
What do you remember about that day? How has your world changed?