I have a terrible memory. It is so bad that my younger sister often gets texts from me asking about details from our childhood to refresh my memory.
One day I have never had to be reminded of is Tuesday, September 11, 2001 though.
I remember that day very vividly.
Seventeen years ago, I was in 7th grade Science class when I first learned about the terrorist attack. Over the loud speakers we were told to gather our things because school would be let out early. Of course we were excited, not thinking about why this school day was coming to an unexpected end. Mrs. West calmly stood at the front of the class and explained to twenty 12-year-olds that things outside of our small East Texas town were not safe and our great nation was being attacked.
At this point, Flight 175 and Flight 11 had both struck the Twin Towers. Buses were loaded and parents arrived to retrieve their children. I remember walking past the cars in the pick-up line and seeing the eyes of the parents red and swollen from crying. Everything was quiet, and not a single whisper was muttered. That was the quietest bus ride of my life.
My Mom and Dad were glued to the TV when my sister and I came home. We continued watching the media coverage into the night. The Twin Towers continued to crumble, people jumped from windows, The Pentagon was hit and Flight 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field. The four of us sat and watched in complete silence until bedtime.
I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the events and I didn’t dare break the somber mood with questions. The hours and days that followed this event changed the United States’ future, as well as mine. The patriotism and pride I witnessed from a damaged nation is what made me want to join the military. The way the American people came together to grieve helped me understand the extend of the events and evoked a new sense of pride in myself.
I remember for the first time being proud to be an American. It wasn’t that I wasn’t proud before but I didn’t have a reason to express it.
My husband, Cody, was 17 at the time and had already made a major life choice that was beginning to unfold that day. Cody was in downtown Dallas at MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) enlisting in the Army. His right arm was raised in front of the American flag reciting the enlistment oath when a high ranking officer barged in the room and had everyone gather in the common room. The TV blasted the devastating news. He was in the room fast enough to see the second plane plow into the Twin Towers. MEPS was locked down and anger quickly filled the room. “I hope y’all are ready to go to war,” the recruiters told the new recruits. Everything change that day.