It’s incredibly hard for me to watch footage of the devastation that occurred on September 11th, 2001. Ten years ago I stood in my mother’s kitchen, watching the news on a tiny TV as I hurriedly ate breakfast before rushing off to my morning classes at Penn State -York. As the Today Show grasped to make sense of what had happened to the first tower (was it a prop plane, a commercial plane, there were conflicting reports at first) I watched in horror as the second tower was also hit. The knowledge that people had lost their lives in an instant when that first plane hit was hard to swallow. The knowledge that somehow this was orchestrated was sickening, and my heart and mind instantly went to all those in the towers, their family and loved ones.

The day before I had said goodbye to my then fiancee, Brooks. Brooks had made a decision to join the Army the summer after graduating from high school, a decision I thought might be short lived, since I didn’t really and truly believe he’d make it through Basic Training. I was resigned to not seeing him for several weeks, to sporadic communication, to Army life. I never imagined he’d be sitting in a MEPS station as the events of that morning played out.

Brooks was supposed to be sworn in the morning of September 11th, 2oo1. He was to board a plane to head to Basic Training in South Carolina. None of that happened, obviously. Instead, he was sent home, to his parents, and to me. After the devastating events of that morning all I wanted to do was hug Brooks and implore him to reconsider his decision, because I knew that what had transpired that morning was evil at it’s very core, and I knew that it couldn’t possibly bode well for the men and women in our volunteer ranks. I was a coward, unpatriotic, and incredibly selfish. I was also 2o and terrified of losing the man I was only beginning to envision my life with. It was daunting and the emotions swirling through me were hard to grasp, let alone comprehend.

As I stood in Brooks’s parent’s den, crying my eyes out, begging him to rethink his plans, my beau told me that he was more determined to go now. And he did.

Our marriage began shortly after September 11th, 20o1, in late November after Brooks’s graduation from Basic Training, under a big ol’ tree near the reception area for graduation. We were all but baby cats, so young were we.

The last almost ten years of our marriage have been defined by the events that morning and Brooks’s subsequent deployments to Iraq. His first deployment into Iraq was in March of 2003 during the thrust into Baghdad – his Battalion had been in Kuwait since late 2002 during a normal rotation into that country. I find it ironic that ten years later he finds himself back Iraq on the anniversary of the terrible events of that morning.

All week as the anniversary drew near it was hard to watch news coverage of the stories behind September 11th. I wanted to change the channel, read other news coverage, divert my eyes when possible because the sadness and grief at the senseless loss of so many men, women, and children can consume me. On the other hand I felt like I needed to see those stories relived, to honor the memory of those who lost their lives so needlessly.

Our journey these last ten years hasn’t always been easy. Five deployments in such a span of time has been hard, but I remain so incredibly proud of my beau, of his part in this. And I look forward to welcoming him home in a few short months, home again, if even for just a spell. That day I was a coward and selfish and unpatriotic. Today, those words wouldn’t apply.

 

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