Today is September 11th and maybe that’s why I’m not seeing a whole lot of posting going on on my favorite blogs. It’s hard not to feel a little unAmerican when you decide to write about something other than what happened 13 years ago, but there’s more to it than that. So, today, I thought I’d look back and remember where I was that day…..not just when the towers fell, but also in my life in general.
On September 11, 2001 I was sleeping soundly in my apartment in Vacaville, California right next to my husband of about 6 weeks. I was 20 years old, married, had moved across the country from the only state I’d ever lived in (Iowa), had started taking classes at a community college (I’d previously done two years at a university back home), and had absolutely zero friends that weren’t adopted as part of my marriage. My husband was in the Air Force and stationed at Travis AFB. We lived in a little two bed/two bath apartment on the second floor with a lot of total strangers near by who often felt the need to take my clothes out of the washing machine and leave them on the floor if I were even a second late at getting them out when my time was up. I was young, naive, ambitious, all of the things that make for a disaster of a person. I was also walled off and falsely threw myself into a marriage with someone who was very nice to me and made me feel secure after my dad had walked out on our family just a few years earlier.
Around 6 something that morning our home phone rang. You remember when everyone had a home phone? My husband worked swing shift and got home around 1am, so having someone call that early was never a good sign. It was someone from base who called to tell him three things:
- Turn on your tv
- Pack a bag
- Get on base as fast as you can
So, he did all three. And I, groggily, followed him to the living room to see what was going on. I sat there not believing my eyes and soon another phone call came. This time it was my mom. Her oldest child was across the country near a military installation and no one knew what was going on, so she needed to make sure I was okay. I sat there barely talking to her, more a nervous laugh as she scolded me for laughing. Eventually we got off the phone and the days progressed in kind of slow motion from there. My husband left for base and for more than 24 hours I had no contact with him. I didn’t know if he was still on base or gone or when he would return. I sat there in that apartment, completely alone, eating Oreos and watching tv.
When he did return we talked very little as he was now on 14 hour shifts until further notice and we would see little of each other for a few weeks. The community college was closed for days and the base was off limits. Some of our friends’ wives were trapped off base and some were trapped on. It was all surreal. I remember checking in with my cousin who was in college on the East Coast whom I had visited the Thanksgiving previously. I remember calls to and from my family. But most of all, I remember that nothing really changed at first.
Later that month we moved on base and I had my 21st birthday. We almost didn’t get to celebrate because of my husband’s work schedule and I remember feeling like was being cheated out of something because of that. How stupid of me to worry about doing shots when the world was being attacked by terrorists! When people were losing their lives and their loved ones! Idiot I say of myself now, but at the time it was just how I felt. I was still very much in my own little world.
Thirteen years have gone by since that day. Today I am remarried and in a relationship that’s a lot more sturdy and a lot less like a romantic weekend vacation gone wrong. I am a lot less naive and a lot more concerned with the world around me. My ambitions are less directed by my goals and more a look to the future of my children and family. There are still terrorist attacks and people are still losing their lives and their loved ones. I can no longer walk a family member to nor meet them at a gate at an airport. Traveling by plane now requires some extra effort in packing and a few more security checks. There is a lot more internet and I no longer have a home phone. Life has changed, but it hasn’t.
Fundamentally, when I was 20 going on 21 I was a good person with a good heart. I was closed off more so then than I am now, but I was still me. I still had the desire to exercise and eat right (minus the Oreo binge) and I still held my family at the forefront of my heart. Thirteen years may change the world around you and the way you look, but it doesn’t have to change you at the core of your existence. I choose to be a good person with a good heart that tries not to judge another human being based on race, age, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, weight, or disability.
Today’s run was a hard one, probably because it needed to be. My feet felt heavy and the sun was hot. I was out of breath due to sinus congestion and the work I was doing. Yesterday I was able to fly through my run with a friend by my side. I could easily have taken for granted my freedoms and the freedom that my body provides me with. Today I reflected while I ran on what to write here. Looking back at your life is hard sometimes and appreciating what you have may be harder yet. But these are necessary evils in life, for if you don’t know where you’ve been you can’t truly know who you are. Remember today, but don’t let the world around you shape you negatively. Move on from bad experiences and look to the light always.