Saturday, September 11, 2021

Twenty Years #neverforget

Twenty Years...

I still remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. The tragedies and stories of inspiration. And bravery! How united we were on 9/12.

I was 24. Tech Guy would turn 22 that December. His friends were even younger. We were awakened Friend 1 on the answering machine saying, "We've been hit!" He was in the Army Reserve. They were all told to get in uniform and wait for orders to come.

Clearing the fog of sleep, I rushed out to turn on the TV and it showed the news. And the horror. I was glued to what was coming in until we had to go to work. We called in and our boss still wanted us to come.

At the time, we and Friend 2, also Army Reserve, worked phone sales for a gold club manufacturer. Most people didn't show up, and certainly not on time. We told Jim, our boss, that no one would want to get calls on the East Coast that day. They were waiting for news! Reluctantly, he accepted reality and we went home to return to the TV.

I was an opener, and for weeks it was rough to call anywhere close to where the planes struck on 9/11. It'd been standard practice to start the day on the East Coast and move West through our shifts. Of course they didn't want to talk about golf! Everyone was grieving.

My ex-fiance was away at Army Boot Camp when 9/11 happened. He eventually came back early over a bogus medical thing and I was relieved. Some people can handle war and come out more or less okay. Some will be forever changed. But, because he was sent home early and could reapply in the future, he was determined to go back - and this time as a medic. I knew in my gut it was a bad decision for him and tried to convince him, but he was young and stubborn.

He ended up in Iraq eventually, for a while, when one of our bases was bombed during chow time. He saw things he can't forget and had to work to save lives. His service eventually beat him up enough to leave him in chronic pain. On disability. Even in a wheelchair for a while. Took a really long time for him to get to a good place, even with gaining a wife and five kids. They met online at a time that that was still totally crazy and I'm still amazed it worked out.

Friend 2 eventually went full-time Army and is still in today. Met his now-ex-wife in the service, and has been saved from suicide twice in acts I can't call anything but divine intervention. He has a daughter and no kid needs that pain. Over the past 20 years, anytime I saw a report of servicemen dying in the Middle East, I've held my breath until we got the names. Or happened to hear from him the same day.

I didn't lose anyone personally on 9/11, but I always watch the ceremonies when broadcast. The reading of the names. The stories from families and survivors. It's important to not get numb about history. My grandparents lived through Pearl Harbor and WWII. My uncle served in Korea and Vietnam in the Navy, my dad in Vietnam in the Army. My mother was a history teacher. We must remember - not only to hopefully learn from the past, but honor the sacrifices big and small that bring us through painful times.

We move forward, but let us not move on.

And never forget.

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