It is hard to imagine that 10 years ago the furthest thing from my mind and probably anyone else’s mind was that a brazen attack would be launched on the United States. We never imagined that by10 AM the following morning that nearly 3000 Americans would be dead, the World Trade Center Twin Towers would be in ruins, the Pentagon ablaze and a final airliner down in rural Pennsylvania. It was unimaginable but it happened.
As far as potential threats to national security I had my eyes on China and North Korea having just returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea. During that deployment a Chinese fighter plane forced a Navy P-3C Orion down on Hainan Island and my battalion was alerted for a potential rescue mission. Thank God that never happened. If there was any concern about the Middle Eastit was the continual run-ins that we were having with Iraq and terrorism against American forces in the Middle East such as the suicide bombing of the USS Cole. Despite the atrocities committed by the Taliban and presence of Al Qaeda Afghanistan seemed too remote to be of any real threat to the continental United States.
On September 10th I was the Chaplain for the Headquarters Battalion Second Marine Division at Camp LeJeune North Carolina. I spent that Monday taking care of routine business. I had the usual counseling appointments for Marines dealing with marriage and financial problems and administrative work punctuated by a meeting or two and a nice run. I also spent time working with a couple of underperforming chaplains who had been fired from their battalion chaplain jobs and who assigned to me in the hopes that their careers might be salvaged.
The weather that day was wonderful temperature was 86 degrees at Marine Corps Air Station New River just across the water from LeJeune. That evening Judy and I grabbed a quick bite to eat and hung out with our dogs, our 13 year old fat red Dachshund Greta and our wild child 9 month old Papillion-Dachshund mix Molly. I figure that we spent the evening watching television and or reading and each taking a little time to check e-mail. I was involved with a couple of theological discussion boards and I was in trouble with my old church for an article I had published in a conservative Catholic theological journal. It was amazing how spun up people got on that forum re-fighting theological battles between Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
That night we went to bed not expecting anything of importance to occur. War seemed far off and a terrorist strike on the centers ofUnited Statesfinancial and military power was unimaginable to us. The thought that the next day would begin a war that would still be going on today was equally unthinkable.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I don’t venture to guess except that I pray that no new attackers will succeed in creating any more havoc in our nation or kill anymore of our countrymen. But I have my doubts. To quote Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt when he received the reports of the German disaster in France in September 1944…. “I am not optimistic.”