The yellow sun snuck over the windowsills, creeping across my bedspread. It still felt like summer in the Northwest and the sun came in and warmed my bed before my alarm clock went off. The noisy birds in the huge cedar tree outside my window had been awakened by it, too and their cacophony interrupted the sun’s softly glowing heat. With one eye, I confirmed I still had ten minutes, and I rolled over toward the empty side of the bed, turning my back to the birds. Husband was flying and I had to get to work. But not yet. Without opening my eyes, I slowly raised my hand over to his pillow and rested it there. I wondered where he was at that moment.
Nine and a half minutes passed, and I woke up, showered, and turned on Matt Lauer. When Husband was home I had to sneer quietly as I watched him turn away from my closet light and return to his slumber. But when he was gone I could turn the news up loud enough to hear all the way into the bathroom, and I loved it. Without looking at the TV, I tossed the remote onto the bed and headed for the daily closet ritual.
Matt’s voice was pitching high. Katie wasn’t laughing. Something was odd. Something seemed strange. I walked back over to the TV screen. A huge smoking tower filled my bedroom and the nervousness in Matt’s voice confirmed for me this was not a “regular” news event. In the flurry of voices and words, which were imprinted in a faster than usual scroll across the bottom of the screen, I could see this was New York. I stood motionless and cold in my bedroom, wet and naked, dumbstruck by what was unfolding …
* * *
Ten years later I woke up, the sun streaming in once again to wake me, and I remembered. But I didn’t close my eyes. I stared into the light.
I remembered “Let’s Roll” and The Pentagon. I remembered mountains of crushing steel and concrete smashing down on the hearts of Americans on live television. I remembered Firefighters. Port Authority. Cops. Jumpers. I remembered a President’s determination from the midst of the rubble. I remembered grainy videos of a scary bearded man I’d never heard of.
I remembered the courthouse security confiscating box cutters from a man in front of me at the metal detector. I remembered the eerie sound of an airplaneless sky. I remembered Homeland Security. The creation of the TSA. Taking off shoes and putting toiletries in plastic baggies and dumping out water bottles. I remembered being wary of any person with a turban on an airplane. I remembered widespread bankruptcies and massive government subsidies and pervasive economic depression. I remembered it wasn’t always like this.
I remembered coming home to find a “Mobilization Checklist” on the home computer screen. I remembered saying goodbye for a year. I remembered Veteran’s Day and Christmas and Father’s Day and the first day of Kindergarten. And I remembered being on an airplane when the news of Bin Laden’s death broke. I remembered SEALS.
* * *
Everyone has a memory or reflection that’s personal. It’s our son, daughter, father, or husband that was in the tower or on the planes or in the Pentagon. It’s our friend’s business that went under. It’s our own lost job in a failing economy. It’s our child born without their father home during a military deployment. It’s our employees that are being mobilized and we are scrambling to fill the holes at home. It’s our best friend who died in the desert just driving along the roadway.
It’s our country.
Which is why the sea change of 9/11 also rewards us individually. We are each individually stronger, individually more educated, individually more aware of our world neighbors, both allies and enemies. We are individually more capable, individually more vigilant, individually more appreciative of the value of freedom.
We need not remember the events, the tragedy, and the broken-heartedness of September 11th if we can’t also remember the resulting virtues that this trial has brought us in ten years. We have to be thankful for the good that we have sucked out of a smoking pile of rubble, not bitter for the change.
I have to be thankful for the good I have sucked out of a year-long deployment, not bitter for the change. Otherwise, the work was useless. Otherwise, the enemy has won. And I don’t like losing.
What do you have to be bitter about?