I was a kid back then. Just started 8th grade. Dad was stationed at Fort Huachuca at the time and we lived on post. I woke up and heard that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center at or around 0700 hours Arizona time. I thought that was a real tragic freak accident but gave it no second thought. I got ready for school and walked as I usually did.
By the time I got to school and arrived at my first class, I learned a second plane had hit the other WTC tower. That was around the time when I started to realize something was off, but it didn’t really register. We got called into an assembly in the cafeteria and our principal, a former Navy aviator, informed us that school would be canceled for the day. I don’t think most of the kids were tracking the news, so the cafeteria erupted into cheers because who doesn’t like a day off from school, right?
“Hey! This isn’t funny!” he shouted. The cafeteria quieted down. He began to give us the ass-chewing we deserved and finally began to address the point that we, as middle-schoolers, had not yet grasped: we were under attack. We were told to wait outside for busses or for our parents to pick us up. I remember more than a few girls crying and wondering if we would be attacked next.
I wasn’t the normal 8th grader. Now that I knew that it was a deliberate attack, I mulled over some possibilities. Yeah, Huachuca had some strategic importance as a military school, but there were much larger targets to be attacked, so I figured we would be fairly safe. A Reader’s Digest article I had read two or three years earlier came to mind, talking about a guy, I think his name was bin Laden. A guy that blew up an embassy or two and declared war on the West. Maybe he was behind it?
My dad had guard duty for the next week or two. We were at Threatcon Delta. He was not combat arms, and yet he was told to grab a rifle, strap on body armor, and guard a post. In the weeks leading up to the invasion of Afghanistan, I knew a war was upon us and that something had changed. It also bolstered my commitment to the notion that after I graduated high school, I would join the Army and I would be sent to fight.
Well, that’s sort of how it went. I did join the Army as an infantryman, but I wasn’t sent to fight the perpetrators of those attacks nor their immediate compatriots. I did my tour in Iraq instead, scooping AQI and JAM fighters off the streets and pulling security while our CO made nice with the locals.
9/11 also takes another meaning for me with the Benghazi consulate attacks. I still haven’t forgotten Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, or Tyrone Woods. Four more casualties of the war started thirteen years ago today.
I know we say we should never forgot, but I don’t expect those who are not actively involved in or affiliated with the national security apparatus to always remember. The average American sort of has ADD in that sense. They can tell you Kim Kardashian’s measurements or Drew Brees’ stats over the past six years, but it takes them a moment to realize we’ve still got warfighters downrange. I used to resent them for that, but I’ve come to accept it as a fact of life.
I only hope they can at least retain a foggy notion that we’re still engaged in conflict while the conflict is ongoing. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
(Featured Image Courtesy: DVIDs)