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March 12, 2004

3/11: Lest We Forget

CNNPentagon7.jpg Last weekend I talked with my oldest son. He often calls me while he's commuting to work - it passes the time, and he gets the check in the block ("call your Mom") - redeemable for brownie points with my daughter-in-law. We like to argue, so the talk turned to politics and the election. He will vote for George Bush, but he's annoyed at Bush's 'war president' platform and wanted to know what I thought of it. In his view, the economy and social issues are more important and he can't understand why so much emphasis is placed on the war on terror.

The danger in having grownup children is that sometimes you're so impressed by their newfound adulthood that you forget the imp lurking just under the surface - the sophomore who loved to wait until 1 am the night before going back to college to play devil's advocate. The teenager who, with a smile so fleeting you couldn't be sure you'd seen it, adopted the most outrageous positions and -- only after you argued him to a standstill -- admitted he'd done so to find out what you thought. After all, he didn't really believe it. I fell for it every time: hook, line, and sinker.

So last weekend was no exception. I searched for an example, a fact that would persuade him, somewhat amazed that this should be necessary for a young man whose father was in the military. And then it hit me -- "Chris", I said, "Do you remember September 11th?". Because a lot of people have forgotten. And they don't want to be reminded. It's uncomfortable. They want to get on with their lives. I feel that way sometimes, so I understand the feeling. But I don't agree with it.

That morning I drove to my job in Northern Va. It was a spectacular fall day. I had the radio on and the news of the first plane hitting the WTC came on. I was just a few minutes away from work, so when I got in, we turned the radio on and listened. For some reason I'll never understand, I decided to call my husband at the Pentagon. I almost never call him at work, so this was pretty unusual. He was in anti-terrorism, and I asked if they'd heard the news. They were in the briefing room and had just turned on CNN, so I let him go.

Not too much later, the plane hit the Pentagon. I remember going to the President's office and looking out the 9th floor window. In the distance, we saw a plume of black smoke rising. The radio announcers were hysterical - they were reporting planes circling over the Pentagon and bombings at the State Dept. and scrambling fighter jets. People kept asking me if I'd tried to call my husband, which made no sense. After a few minutes of this, I went back to my office and looked up a diagram of the Pentagon on the Net - I was trying to figure out where the plane had hit. I gave up and started answering email. Time passed. My boss came in and said he was sending everyone home - there would be traffic jams everywhere. The phone rang - it was my husband calling from a friend's cell. They had gotten outside and walked a few blocks away to get reception so they could start calling families and let people know they were alive. Everyone from the office was OK.

Looking back, it all sounds pretty dramatic. I'd like to say that's how it felt, but that wouldn't be accurate. I went home and started calling relatives. I folded laundry and watched CNN in between phone calls. Everyone seemed more upset than I was - several broke down when I told them he was all right. He had to go back into the building right away. He smelled like smoke for days. I didn't see much of him for the next few weeks as he was on watch most of the time and working odd hours - going in nights and sleeping during the day while I was at work. He got a long letter from a woman he'd helped out of the building - typically, he hadn't told me about it. I found it lying in a bunch of papers.

It wasn't until recently that it hit me how close I came to being a widow - how close my sons came to not having a father. And that's what I told my son last weekend. "You might", I said, "feel differently about Bush being a 'war president' if you'd been one of the people who lost a father on September 11th". Because his office was right around the corner from where the plane hit that day. A few hundred yards to the left, and this would have been a very different story.

And there are almost 1500 people in Spain today who weren't so lucky. They understand why the war on terror is important. And why we can't afford to forget - not for a minute. Because the terrorists will never forget. And they will never stop trying.

March 12, 2004 at 08:13 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: joatmoaf at Mar 12, 2004 11:19:20 AM

Pencils down. Turn your tests over.

Your articles just keep getting better and better. I had a creative writing teacher tell me once that the best writers find a niche and stick with it.I think you have found yours. Good writers always write about what they know.[Please don't use my recent literary iambus at Scrappleface against me].I have actually written substance somewhere in this world but if I told you who I actually was - I would have to shoot myself - because I am sworn to secrecy. Of course I mean that in a fictional sense.I'm sure there are people that would do that for me. Never the less,keep at it and I expect to see a novel in your future. Kudos Kid. Kudos.

Pencils up. You may resume testing.

Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at Mar 12, 2004 12:37:27 PM

Well written. You have truly been blessed.

I will have a rant later, consider yourselves warned.

Posted by: purple raider at Mar 12, 2004 12:57:12 PM

re: I will have a rant later... Oh no :)

If I've been blessed, it's by you guys. Do I have to invite Ranbutan over here to point out my many failings as a human being???

Posted by: Cassandra at Mar 12, 2004 1:32:16 PM

A resounding NO!!!...was heard to echo from the peanut gallery.

BTW, I have gotten a running start on this weeks caption contest, and I haven't even cracked a beer yet. :)

Posted by: Pile On at Mar 12, 2004 1:39:37 PM

I had left the house about 7:30AM,late for me, and hurrying off to work. I listen to the all-sports station in the morning because I can't stand the other fare. At 8:05 I heard that the second plane had hit the WTC. I said WHAAT. I turned to the all news station and started hearing my life change. I was on the Tri-State Tollway, coming up the part between 290 and O'Hare, and I'm hearing on the radio about planes heading toward the Sears Tower, a plane hit the Pentagon, there's chaos in the sky, WE'ER ALL GOING TO DIE (That from Dan Blather). My head now in on a swivel, looking each plane passing by down to the ground. Traffic is moving about as fast as molassas in January. 2 hours or so later, I finally get to the office. I look at the TV just in time to see the Second tower fall. Unbe-freaking-believable.

I call my wife, turn on the tv, look what's happened. I go on the web, all the major news services are backed up, can't get on. Finally get on the Canton Repository's website to finally find out some definitive version. I was not a happy camper.

Later on, one of my co-workers had made a snarky comment about it was our fault. I did not want to lose my job, so I didn't bite her head off, but instead calmly explained to her that bad people will do things just to be bad people.

Then in the coming weeks, I find that the first black president, President Tiparillo, had 3 chanches to get this bastard Bin Laden. Naturally I was upset. Now I wouldn't vote for a Dem for dog catcher.

Islamo Facists brought down the WTC because their god told them to. If their god told them to, then their god is a pig.

Sorry for the rant.

Posted by: purple raider at Mar 12, 2004 9:41:37 PM

I was at Work in Boston, around 9 AM I got an IM from a former co-worker who said a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I immediately went to the web to see if there was anything posted about it (figuring at the time it was an accident) ... most sites I tried wouldn't load, until I got onto Boston.com. Then came word the second tower was hit and I knew we were at war. I called my guard unit. The phones were busy so I left a message sayng I was ready to come in, just let me know if I should. I then called people in my section to verify the alert roster and told them to get ready ... I didnt expect to wait 3 years afterwards to get mobilized!!! I'll never forget standing radio watch at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod watching the fighters take off from Otis Air Base and the soldiers cheering them on ... nor the feeling (after almost 20 years in the military) of having people come up to you and thank you for serving. Coming from Massachusetts (AKA The Peoples Republic of ) I was more accustomed to people looking at you like you were nuts!

Posted by: Frodo at Jun 14, 2005 6:29:57 AM