The world will never be the same. We all know that. I am about to leave on the annual Caldwell senior trip to Italy. Our travel will be much different than it might have been had 9/11 had never happened, but it isn’t only flying that is different. Some of the things I was concerned about on that Wednesday morning ten years ago never came to pass. I wondered if I would continue to be able to get to work. It seemed living in Reidsville and working in Greensboro might become an impossibility if our oil supply was cut off. (Considering the gas prices of 2011, I’m glad I no longer have to make that trip!) Being a history teacher, I wondered if we were in for some of the same things that happened during the medieval period after the fall of Rome. It felt that ominous at the time.
What I remember very clearly about the morning after the horror is the discussion I had with my oldest son as we traveled to school in that new world of 9/12/01 where the shining morning sun seemed so incongruous with the smoke and rubble that filled our minds. The conversation began something like this, “Mom, some of us were talking yesterday…”
In that brief pause, my mind was transported back in time sixteen years to a quiet hospital room in Marion, NC. It was a Saturday night and I was the only new mom in the tiny maternity section of a very rural hospital. I held my third baby in my arms–my third child, but my first son. It was different. I love my girls. I would die for them, but there was something special about a boy. I felt suddenly old. I think maybe it happens the opposite way for men. I’ve heard men say that the birth of a daughter made them feel this way. I sat there in the quiet holding my new little man and I was filled with fear. All I could think about was war. “Dear God, what if we have a war in twenty years?” I doubt if this is a normal reaction for a new mother. I know I’m strange and melancholy and Eeyore-like, and often ridiculous, but still, it’s true. I fought a huge battle back there on that first night of my son’s life. Eventually, I calmed down. I thought I was trusting God, but I think I was really trusting time. Twenty years is a long time. Besides, it was 1985. The Berlin wall had not yet come down, but Ronald Reagan was at the helm and things were looking up.
Now, it was 2001. “…we just can’t sit by and let this happen. I think I have to do something about it.”
“David,” I heard myself say, ” you are sixteen years old.”
“I know, but I think I’m going to look into ROTC for college. I think I have to, Mom. I can’t stand by and do NOTHING!”
And who was I to argue? When fiends come and run your own airplanes into buildings full of people just like you, what are you supposed to do? The recruiting stations were full that day. My boy was just one of many who couldn’t sit by and let this happen. And he didn’t. He left high-school a year early, graduated from his university ROTC program, married his high-school sweetheart, got his commission, did a tour in Iraq, three years in Europe and had a son. He’s about to be a Company Commander and before long, he’s off to Afghanistan. I don’t LIKE it. I wish he could be living the quiet history professor life he planned to pursue on September 10, 2001. I wish he could go to work in a tweed jacket with suede elbow patches instead of the digitized camouflage of the modern military and I wish he and his precious family lived somewhere closer to us. But this is our reality and this is what is right.
I’m glad we all remember. I’m thankful America has paused to reflect on this tenth anniversary of the beginning, but for lots of us, 9/11 is not just our past. It is our present, and our future. We are proud and we are thankful for every day God gives us. We would like the nation to remember, however, that all of us are free to pursue our dreams on September 12, 2011 because some have put their dreams aside, and many are not coming back. I offer a sincere thank you to the thousands who have sacrificed. We remember.