Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Remembrance - Patriot Day

Today is September 11, 2008.


Manhattan



The Pentagon


Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA


Seven years since we awoke to terror hitting us squarely in the face, at home - and all three locations became home to us all.

Those 19 homicidal maniacs and their sponsors caught our country with its pants down. Never again.

Where were you?

Where I Was.

The Beloved, kids and I had just returned to our home in San Diego, fresh from a 30-day leave, visiting family and househunting in NY - he'd just submitted his retirement package the day before we left town. He decided to head in to Miramar a little bit early (0500) to catch up on paperwork. A little after 0600, he called me, told me to wake up and turn on the news.

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"We're under attack, babe."
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I flipped on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit the WTC. We both cried out in disbelief and sat, riveted, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Then the first tower fell.

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"Oh no. Oh my God, no...oh, dear God..."

.
I could tell he was choked up and not able to say more. That alone made me start to cry. At first I didn't quite understand. Selfishly, I thought maybe he was worried that he'd be deployed someplace. (That came later). But no, his anguish was not about him, or us.

It was about them. His brother firefighters. He knew instantly that many brave men were storming those buildings, going in while everyone else was running out, trying to help, to rescue, to give aid and comfort. And he knew a lot of them were not going to make it home.

As the next few, surreal days wore on, we remained stunned but did our best to resume our daily lives. The news in San Diego was grim, between the Navy and Marines who we knew would be heading out to fight enemies as-yet unknown, and as experts warned that a chemical attack on San Diego would be so easy...a boat full of poison, an onshore flow...for the first time in my life, I was scared of forces and things I could not see. I was depressed, scared for my family and for my country. But I was also in the midst of expert depositions a big construction defect case 63 miles from home, up in Temecula, CA. So I had to leave home at dawn each day, wondering if the Beloved and girls were going to be safe. Then, in the middle of a very contentious exchange (it was me for the plantiffs vs about 15 defense attorneys who were piling on every time I tried to ask a question), my cell phone started vibrating.


It was the Beloved.


I asked for a recess, my hands shaking, and a few of the guys in suits said "No!" and insinuated that I was stalling or trying to coach my expert. My expert, who knew me well and knew what the Beloved did for a living, launched out of his chair, went up over the table, and lunged for someone's throat. I stood up, yanked him back, swore rather viciously on the record (it was left off the transcript, thankfully) and said we were taking a break, and f*** 'em if they didn't like it.


I ran into an adjoining conference room, took the call, and got the news. "I'm leaving in 30 minutes. We're loading the plane. Kuwait, and then someplace called Tajikistan, I guess." I sank to the floor. I was a mess.


I am fairly sure I said all the right things, love, goodbyes, and all that. Then I looked up and saw several of the defense attorneys looking in at me through the conference room windows. The worst a-hole among them came in, kleenex in hand, and helped me up. "I'm sorry. Pete just told us what's going on. Is your husband leaving? ("Yes, in less than an hour.")We've postponed the depo. Go see if you can catch him. And tell him we're proud of him." He was no longer an a-hole, he was an American.


I flew, at about 90 mph, all the way back down to Miramar. (I should not have been driving, really.) I got there 45 minutes after the call...only to wait in line for an hour to get on to the base. I was hoping against hope that the Marines were operating on Marine time, and I might get lucky. I got to the 3rd MAW buildings, and they were deserted. I sat in the car, head on the steering wheel, and sobbed. Then I looked up and saw a lone figure in cammies walking briskly toward the car.


My Beloved.


"Hi. What're you doing here? Why didn't you answer your phone?" (Oops, conference room floor...) All the guys had parked their cars in the storage lot, and then got called in for a briefing, which ended right when I got there. The deployment was postponed, based on new intelligence, for at least 30 days. Then another 30. And then...well, that's another story.


I know all of you out there reading this are prayerful people, so I know without asking that you will pray for all the lost souls of September 11th and for all of those lost in the war and chaos since that time. But please take a moment to say an extra prayer to St. Michael the Archangel for all the lost first responders...98% of whom were our Catholic brothers and sisters, living out their vocations of love and service to their fellow man.


Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle.

Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;

and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -

by the Divine Power of God -

cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits,

who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

One last prayer request - for the repose of the soul of Mari-Rae, a classmate, who was on the flight that hit the Pentagon. Click here for her remarkable story.


God Bless America and keep her free.

8 comments:

Tom in Vegas said...

I was on my way to work when I heard on the radio that a plane had flown into the WTC. I figured it must have been a wayward Cessna or a miscalculation on behalf of some pilot. NEVER had it crossed my mind that it was a full-size airliner that had been DELIBERATELY flown into the first tower. And when reports of the another plane striking the second tower began to percolate, I figured news agencies were reporting the same story twice.

Was I wrong.

All work that day came to an abrupt stop. For many weeks thereafter I was unable to fully grasp the enormity of the events that unfolded on that fateful September 11, 2001.

If you can, go to PBS.org (you can also buy it on DVD) and see if you can watch the video The Man Who Knew. Brief synopsis: John O’neal was an FBI agent who became an expert in Al qaeda. He investigated the first WTC bombing, as well as other terror attacks that had been perpetrated by the Al qaeda in other parts of the world (USS Cole). He kept telling his superiors that Al qaeda would imminently strike again so it could finish the job that the first WTC attack had failed to do. Unfortunately, O’neal lacked diplomatic skills and did not hesitate to crunch a few toes at the FBI. This made him a great deal of enemies and subsequently, no one would listen to anything he had to say. In the summer of 2001, ostracized and ignored at headquarters, John Oneal left the FBI to become director of security for the World Trade Center. He was killed there on September 11, 2001.

Tragic, isn’t it?

So sorry to hear that one of your classmates fell victim to these misanthropes. God rest her soul

LarryD said...

Thanks for sharing your personal story, Kit. Moving and impactful.

I was at a customer of mine, checking their inventory, when one of the employees said that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers. I made my way to their conference room where the TV was tuned to Fox - and watched as the 2nd plane struck. Then one tower fell. Then the other. Still vivid in my mind to this day.

I called my office and told them I'm going home, called MrsLarryD who was at work, and she said she was heading home too. Then she reminded me that her cousin lives and works in Manhattan - so I said a prayer and for the rest of the day, watched the news in disbelief and uncertainty.

Later in the day we learned that my MrsLarryD's cousin was okay - he could see the whole thing from his apartment, from a safe distance - but that he lost several friends in the attack.

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon...I have a brother-in-law, ex-Army, who worked at the Pentagon for a consultant company. Mercifully, he had the day off, but where the plane struck was very close to where he routinely worked. He's a veteran of Gulf War I, and there were days and months of wondering if he was going to "unretired". Didn't happen, but I believe he was ready to serve his country again if called upon. He too lost several friends in that attack.

We must never forget - our children must be taught that we were attacked because there is evil in the world, that it was terrorism and Islamo-fascism that were responsible, not the United States. Our nation is a force for good in this world, not the other way around.

May God continue to bless America.

The Digital Hairshirt said...

My brother works for the Port Authority and would be at the WTC at least a couple of days each week for meetings and whatnot. That day he was at his office on the GW Bridge, thank God. He called my Mom and told her that a 2nd plane had hit the WTC, that it wasn't an accident, and that she would not hear from him for a couple of days, but he was okay. My brother was working at the WTC when it was bombed in 1993 and that incident led him to ask for a transfer, as he never felt safe again at the towers. He went to about 40 funerals of people he knew after 9/11.

Don't let this day become ancient history.

Kit said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again. I think the news should carry some of the raw footage - people jumping from buildings in human chains, body parts on the ground, fires raging, families grieving, and the celebrations in the streets over in the Middle East. We are 7 years removed and have short attention spans in this country. We've been blessed with 7 years of calm in the midst of a terrible, decades-long storm. I have little doubt that whoever wins in November, the next wave of attacks will follow him into office. I don't know that our culture is up for the next test.

Kasia said...

Let's see. "Where I was," in more ways than one.

I was working as a student assistant at my university in September 2001. I was at work, sorting payroll forms, when my boss got a call from her now-husband telling her to try to turn on the news. She turned on the radio.

The assistant dean found a small TV somewhere and set it up in the conference room. We sat and stared at it. We saw the second plane hit.

I had a class that afternoon - the teacher didn't cancel it because he knew some people wouldn't hear in time and would come down anyway, but he didn't cover any class material. He just facilitated a class discussion about it.

I was still a strong leftist at the time. But I think experiencing that day was what started pushing me back toward the center, and certainly made me rethink how I felt about my country.

Please understand that I grew up listening to folk music about the Sandinistas and Pinochet's "disappeared"; that I was given comic books about sharecroppers and story books that were basically Communist primers; and that most of the most influential people in my life were, to varying degrees, ashamed of their country. So while I was horrified and shellshocked by what had happened, I wasn't sure how to react. I knew that it was bad, horrible, inconceivable...but at the same time, part of me wondered if we hadn't deserved it.

Two things in the aftermath of 9/11 pushed me to start to seriously rethink the worldview I'd been taught. The first was when a friend and I went, after that class, to go get a beer and try to wrap our brains around what had happened. This particular friend was a black nationalist...rather reminiscent of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, actually.

At the table, she said something about how badly this was going to impact the Arab world, and how the Palestinians "dancing in the streets like a bunch of lunatics" wasn't helping matters. There was a raucus, happy group of Central or South Asian men sitting at another table nearby. As we left the restaurant, they were leaving too; and two of them caught my attention and started mock-dancing together in the street. It took me a second, in my brain-fogged state, to make the connection back to what my friend had said, but I did quickly enough. I felt sick.

The second thing was something the same friend said at one point over the next few days - it might have even been while we were at the restaurant. I was dwelling on all the innocent lives lost, and she had the audacity to say that they weren't innocent. I won't get into what exactly she did say; but suffice it to say it shocked me. It made me sicker than the guys dancing in the street did.

Seven years later, I passionately love and am proud of my country. Seven years later, although I haven't always agreed with how the War on Terror has been conducted, I am quite sure it is necessary. Seven years later, I am abundantly proud of and grateful to men and women like your Beloved, who willingly go into harm's way for the rest of us. Seven years later, I am deeply ashamed of who I was seven years ago.

That's where I was. I sincerely hope no one thinks less of me for it.

Kit said...

Oh, no way anyone thinks less of you, Kasia - you went through an eye-opening conversion process like a lot of people did that day. America grew up a little, and had a moment of grace. Remember how people behaved toward one another? It was an amazing transformation. The very freeways were kinder and gentler - less rude driving, signs up on every overpass, merging on wasn't a potential contact sport...off the road, people held doors for one another, smiled at each other, spoke with pride about their country, went back to church, gave more money and time than ever before to causes and charities...and for some people, it stuck. Unfortunately, for most, it didn't.

Kasia said...

Well, that's a relief - I was a right little snot in 2001, and I'd hate to be judged now by how I was then! :-)

I think that's the disadvantage of growing up in peacetime. There are many blessings to it, but the trouble is that it is too easy to take one's country and situation for granted. Prior to 9/11, while I knew evil existed (after all, I had visited Auschwitz), and while I knew rationally that it could affect me...well, let's just say I was looking in the wrong places for it.

gemoftheocean said...

Kasia, it's great you "got with the program."

It strikes me how in a country of 300 million people how connected all our lives are. A second cousin of mine made it out of the twin towers after they were hit. (We haven't met, but her dad was at my dad's funeral a few days later.) And an internet friend of mine's sister died.

Unlike most of you, I was not able to see the TV until much later in the day. I'd just flown to Pa the night before for my dad's funeral. ny aunt had just snapped off he radio 15 minutes before the 1st plane hit. We'd talked for hours, then when it was time for her to pass me off to my dad's sister, we found out from a neighbor what had happened. Then I was handed off to my dad's side of the family, and after arriving up in the coal region, my grandmother announced that she'd had had enough and couldn't take watching TV anymore - I could only turn it on late in the day, after she'd thrown in the towel and gone to bed. I then called my friend Christine. All day long I'd also been worried about the many people I'd made friends with who lived in NY and environs, many of whom I'd met in person. She told me what she knew of our friends. A few days later I finally got to the internet ... and found they'd been worried about me, as I hadn't "checked in." Sadly, one of the guy's sister died in the attacks.

Sometimes it's much closer than 6 degrees of separation.