I considered not writing anything today. Considered the idea of blank space in honor of this day, September 11th.
Decided that was a bad idea.
I don’t think that honor is given in blank spaces. Honor lives in the action of what we do next to build upon what they did first and on what others continue to do today.
I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. I was teaching a group of new Navy Sailors how to be Electronic Technicians in Great Lakes, Illinois. My cell phone rang. I didn’t typically keep my phone on during instruction, but today was the exception as my husband was taking our daughter to the dentist for an involved visit.
“Baby!” I hear on the phone. “You are never going to believe what just happened.” The first plane had just hit.
I put the class on break and went to the faculty room. We were all around the television when the second plane hit. Not good.
By the time I had regained my class in the room, minor panic had taken hold. It was obvious the accident was intentional. What would be done about it was yet to be seen.
“Are they gonna let us out early?” The question from a young Sailor surprised me. Then I realized – they didn’t understand.
“No,” I replied. “In fact, we may double up the schedule to graduate you early. This is why you are here. This is when your job starts.”
A day to remember, to reflect, to honor. Not in a passive way. But in a “this is when my job starts” kind of way.
The size of this day is almost too much. One almost cannot even begin to comprehend it when taken in its entirety. I won’t even attempt it. I honor of all those affected by that day, I want to thank those that impacted my life directly.
The base was put on lockdown. We were instructed that those of us who lived in military housing with our families would need to put a plan together immediately to evacuate them. The fear was that our chance of being a target was great. We were right outside of Chicago and the home of the largest Naval training facility.
Madison was 4 and Savannah was 2 months old. Mark and I decided that should the call go out to evacuate, the three of them would go home to Georgia. I would try to get home as soon as I could to help him pack.
I had just been promoted and they had not updated my ID card. This meant my ID and my uniform did not match. Usually not a big deal – but this was no where near “usually.” My superior officers decided it was best if I went home and did not attempt to come back on to the main base until a runner could bring me the necessary paperwork.
By the time I got to base housing, there were big concrete barriers blocking all the entrances except one. The main entrance was also equipped with these same barriers forming a maze forcing those who entered to do so slowly. The guard shack was manned with armed security forces. This would be the norm for a long time to come.
The order never came to evacuate our families. I was thankful. Although I was the military member, I always feel safer when Mark is around. After a while, we attempted to regain some sense of a normal routine.
The first time Madison saw the guards at the entrance, she was bewildered. The second time she had questions. Why were they there? Where had they been before? Why do they have guns? Is it because of the planes?
As I am sure many of you know, explaining the events of September 11th to a 4 year old is not easy. Tip toeing on truth and appropriateness while maintaining a delicate balance of awareness and safety is no small feat.
Yes, they are there because of the planes. They have guns to make sure that bad folks can’t hurt you. They are here to help Mommy and Daddy keep you safe.
“Sure does look like they are cold out there,” Madison commented. She was right – they sure did look cold. We brought them coffee that they wouldn’t take. Of course they wouldn’t – I knew better. It’s a security precaution. But, Madison was satisfied that they were okay out there, and they knew we appreciated them.
We really appreciated them.
These guys protected my home with force and at the risk of life. Seems dramatic now, but the fear was very real then.
They did more than stand watch at the gate of housing, they guarded the gate of my baby’s fear. Mommy and Daddy would never let anything happen to her or her new baby sister, and these guys were going to make sure of it.
Thank you to all the men and women who stood watch outside of Great Lakes housing. You kept my family safe. Thank you to all those who continue to stand watch around the world. You continue to provide that safety. You are supported and appreciated.