Many of us have very clear memories of what happened in our lives on September 11, 2001. It began, for me, with my coworker saying that someone had flown their plane into the World Trade Center. I commented on how irresponsible it was for that person to be flying so low and so close to the buildings in NY. Thinking that this was a one man Cessna or something similar.
My co-worker had the radio on at her desk and soon was reporting that another plane hit the 2nd tower and shortly there after that another plane had just hit the Pentagon, which was literally 30 minutes from us. I quickly gathered my things and told my boss that I was headed to pick up little bit from the Ft. Meade military base, where her baby sitter was located, before they closed down the base and I couldn’t get to her. Once in the car I turned the radio on…chaos….schools were closing – needed to get to my first born too. Planes were being told to land at the closest airports – they wanted all planes out of the air – all of them grounded. There was great concern that more planes would be crashing into more buildings…they were contemplating what possible targets might be next… guessing at who might be behind all of this… In the end they were right…there was another plane, headed back toward Washington DC. The the phone systems were soon over burdened with all the calls…you couldn’t get through to anyone for days after this. When I got to Kristie’s house to pick up little bit at the base, I saw the first images of the two trade towers burning..everyone there was glued to the television. Kristie was crying. The anxiety in the air was palatable.
I couldn’t linger as I needed to gather my eldest from school – another 20 minutes. When we arrived at the school, we were not allowed into the building. There were many parents standing by the front doors. I was informed that a staff person would come, check our ids, go and gather our children and bring them out to us. After a short wait she emerged confused and scared as to what was happening; her classmates were being pulled out of class one by one. She was one of the last few still in class.
Trying to lower all of our anxiety, I suggested we eat lunch at Burger King. It didn’t help much. My husband was away for military training. He was in Virginia. Due to the phone situation I was unable to reach him and he was unable to get through to us for quite a while. I filled the car up with gas – we were uncertain what gas would cost over the days ahead. The next morning I purchased a couple major newspapers to save them. Then the stories began. People stranded – can’t get a rental car. Many had to ask strangers to give them rides across country as the air traffic was grounded. No flights at all. My father saw Air Force One, and its entourage, fly over Illinois. A strange sight. The lack of the normal cross hatched sky from jet trails replaced by a handful of planes headed east.
The events of this day changed the course of our lives. My husband’s job description changed quickly. He was reassigned to a unit a few hours from home. It started with two days gone…then two weeks gone…then two months gone… his deployments continued. He was using his security clearance, but not in ways we’d imagined he would be working.
On the 4th of July 2002 we planned to watch fireworks on the Washington DC mall. My husband was to be home from a deployment on July 3rd. He didn’t make it. The girls and I watched fireworks on the mall as he was flying home over us. It was a very hot day over 100 degrees outside. Lots of security – checking bags carefully. Nothing was the same. Always watchful.
The war – stop loss – more time in the military than we had planned – big family decisions. A change in locations – moved to Illinois. The stress on military families is tremendous when our wives and husbands are deployed for extended periods of time. And then add more stress when they are sent to war zones. Lessons in life that I didn’t want to learn. How to be independent, how I had more emotional and physical strength than I ever thought possible – my strength comes from the Lord. How to pray, really pray; taking all my worries, fears and burdens to God.
God has spared our family tragedy but not sacrifice. We all live with the understanding that God is sovereign, it is a willful decision to trust, that come what may, God is good and God loves us dearly. We pray for the families who have lost their loved ones. That God will comfort them and that they will take strength in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that in doing so they will know the goodness of God.