It was the second Monday of the eighth grade when terrorists came to my school and killed six people.  They came with AKs, fully expecting to slaughter as many children as they could.

I was walking from a classroom to the library when the first shots went off.  My initial thought was that someone was lighting off fireworks as it was a friend’s birthday, so I just sort of stopped and listened for a moment.  Seconds later, a woman screamed.  I had never heard a scream like that before, though in my adult life I would hear a few more.

She was screaming for her life as she had just been shot in the wrist.  I made my way to the library, where my friend Simon and I would hide under the desk for several hours.  I peeked out the second story window, saw some movement and ducked back.  Other than that I did little but hide; there was little else I could do.  My heart would nearly leap out of my throat every time someone crept around the corner.

In a moment of facetiousness, Simon and I carved a note under our desk: “Luke and Simon, August 05, 2002, Hiding from Terrorists.”  I think humor in combat is an essential quality for anyone who hopes to make it a career later in life, though I certainly wasn’t thinking that far ahead then.

“Luke and Simon, August 5, 2002, Hiding from Terrorists”

I had been living in Pakistan for around nine years at that point.  Soon I would move to Thailand and begin a new adventure there, though I would miss the home of my youth—a place I will very likely never be able to fully explore again.

It’s strange thinking back to that moment, now after having been a Team Leader in the 3rd Ranger Battalion and deployed to Afghanistan several times.  To have been a civilian in combat and then a soldier neck deep in it.

What’s the biggest difference?  Usefulness.

As an eighth grader, I was hiding under my desk as gunmen were murdering others nearby, and I felt a profound sense of uselessness.  I just had to sit there and let it happen.