I was reminded today about how the terrible events of September 11th 2001 are part of our national fabric and how those that remember that day have in some way been affected by it. Most of us I am sure remember where they were when they found out and what they were doing. I have written about my experience at Camp LeJeune but I know that others have just as vivid memories.
I was asking one of my sailors where he was on 9-11. He is young, just a year in the Navy and he replied that he was in 3rd grade. He explained that he remembers his teachers and other adults in states of shock and disbelief. He said that as a kid the significance was not understandable, that the pictures looked like a movie.
One of my friends who I served with in Germany early in my Army career was a hospital administrator at a large medical center on the New Jersey side of the Hudson across from Manhattan when the towers were hit and how he watched from his office as the towers burned and fell.
I have many friends from the USS Hue City which I reported aboard in December 2001 who were at sea and after the attack patrolled the East Coast. Another one of my friends who works with me on our pastoral care staff was in the gym at 29 Palms following a combined arms exercise with the 2nd Marine Regiment when the news showed the second aircraft hitting the South Tower of the WTC. He informed his disbelieving commanding officer of the attack.
My wife Judy was in a doctor’s office waiting room when the news came on the television. She said to a friend who was with her that “it was terrorism” and the friend said “that damned Saddam Hussein.”
I had friends that served as first responders or provided support to first responders at the site. Many were clergy, both Navy Chaplains serving with the US Coast Guard and civilian clergy.
Quite a few of the young Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen that I have served alongside joined following in the days, months and years after 9-11-2001 because of that terrible event. Others who had done their time on active duty volunteered as Reservists or National Guardsmen to return to active duty . They are part of the 9-11 Generation, a new Greatest Generation, who have served in the longest and most far flung war in our nation’s history.
I believe that we should never forget that day and the lives of those that were killed or injured during the attack, the families who lost husbands, wives, children or parents and those that laid down their lives going up to save lives even as the buildings came down. Some of us knew people killed in the attacks. One of my Army Officer Basic Course Classmates, Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner died in the Pentagon. Other friends and comrades have died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For their sake we should remember and never forget 9-11-2001.
Many of us have gone to war, deploying more than once to Iraq, Afghanistan or the Arabian Gulf, the Horn of Africa and other less known theaters of the Global War on Terrorism. Over 6,000 of us, twice the number killed on 9-11-2001 have died in those wars, tens of thousands of others wounded and forever changed. The name Operation Enduring Freedom is no misnomer, it has gone on far longer than anyone of us imagined that it would.
However on 9-11-2001and in the days following that day Americans stood as one. Liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, straight and gay, religious people and non-religious people, secularists and humanists, Christians of all denominations, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, followers of Wicca and earth based religions and American Moslems who often took the brunt of others anger for the actions of the terrorists all stood together. We were Americans again.
We have lost unity that over the past eleven years and all of us, especially those probably share some of the blame for the division. I do hope that as we remember the events of 9-11-2001 that we somehow recover a sense that we are all in this together and come together as Americans no matter which political party is in power.
Tomorrow at the Naval Hospital that I serve we will mark the events of 9-11-2001 with a small ceremony at morning Colors and have moment of silence at the time of the first attack. Others around the country, especially at the World Trade Center where the Freedom Tower is rising, the Pentagon and in Somerset County Pennsylvania will have more elaborate ceremonies. Regardless of where we are we will be one in spirit.
I invite anyone reading this to share in the comments your memories of the day, perhaps your experiences of it.