How September 11th Changed Me

On September 11, 2001, I was in Hawaii. Yes, I was in paradise, but even there, the world stopped.

I remember getting a predawn phone call from our family in the main land. They told us what was going on and we immediately got out of bed and turned on the news. We watched the second plane hit, and just like the rest of the world… our hearts stopped.

My high school-sweetheart husband was in the Army. I had just completed my basic training with the Army Reserve, and that upcoming weekend was to be my first drill weekend. So, we immediately thought like Soldiers.

We checked the kids. We called friends and other family members. We gathered all the information we could from the news. We secured the house. We reported our status with our units. And, in between all of that, we knew, our duties as Soldiers were forever altered.

As the facts unfolded throughout the day, fear was in the air – even in Hawaii. The military gates were on lock down and only the select few were allowed access. Schools were closed. Traffic was sparse as everyone stayed in place. It was as though the world was partially frozen and moving in slow motion.

The trepidation touched even the youngest of hearts. My 7-year-old daughter and I walked outside at one point in the day, and a plane roared overhead. As I looked up at it, my innocent child fearfully asked, “Mommy, are they going to crash into us too?”

If these things were happening all the way in Hawaii, I can only imagine the choking atmosphere in the main land.

Now that so many years have passed, I look back and reflect on how that day altered so many people’s lives. Obviously, for those directly involved in the events, it must have been like living in a never-ending nightmare. I imagine those days must replay in their heads like Soldiers’ night terrors from war. Posttraumatic stress is not limited to those who wear a uniform. My heart and soul ache for those people. There cannot be a way to truly recover from such pain. All you can do is find a new normal and move forward.

September 11th changed my world, like many others. I deployed a few times. My husband deployed a few times. In our own little way through our assigned jobs, we were fighting terrorism. Those were just the direct effects though. Indirectly, it transformed my way of living. The horrible day showed me that nothing is permanent. We are not promised a tomorrow. We are never truly safe from danger or hate.

I have never understood or will understand terrorism. I cannot fathom the energy it must take to hate with every fiber of being. The time it must take to plan such destruction must be exhausting. If I do not like someone, they do not exist to me. I will not waste time thinking about them or finding ways to ruin them. With the unknown amount of time I have left on earth, I choose to live. I will embrace my friends and family. I will try new things. I will take calculated risks. I will see new places. I will stop and breathe in the beauty of the world that God created. I will make attempts to honor him and make a difference in the world. (Not sure how much I really achieve on this note, but at least I mean well and will keep trying.) I will welcome each day and cherish the gift that it is as tomorrow may never be.

Ultimately, I think this is how we, average people, beat the terrorists. We show them that their blows cannot stop us. We continue to live, love and laugh. We all keep working and rebuilding. We support the global efforts to eliminate their awful souls. We refuse to let their hate taint our hearts — dampen our spirits. We spread a little kindness each and every day. Regardless of politics, races, or religions, we band together when things are bleak. United together, the radiance of our joy and life can illuminate the dark and win over evil.

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