September is my favorite month.
I love the crisp of the morning air, the jeans and sweaters and crockpot meals. It’s the month that I recharge. The holidays are on the horizon. I have some order back in my life with the kids in school and a schedule to follow. September also brings emotional highs and lows of remembrance – the would-have-been birthday of precious baby 3, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and our wedding anniversary.
Yesterday, I nursed an aching heart for the would-be five year old I never got to hold. It was a strange sort of disconnected day for me. I wasn’t upset as much as I felt sadness, a melancholy. I’m emotionally connected to September 10th in a way that I wish I wasn’t. And it’s a strange sort of camaraderie I’ve found in the other moms who know all-too-well that emptiness of losing a baby they’ll never meet this side of heaven.
This next morning is different, but echoes that sense of loss. On this day I feel that familiar deep feeling that the world isn’t ever going to be the same as it was. Today we remember the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country.
I really can’t think of anyone whose life wasn’t changed on that day. Not only did the safety I felt as an American change, but a new sense of patriotism was born. I’d been raised to respect America – the ideals of our Founders, the sacrifices of those who have served in the armed forces. But it wasn’t until those terrorists stole our planes and killed thousands just states away, did I understand how sacred that freedom is. I couldn’t relate to the Pearl Harbor generation, until just before 9am on that morning.
It’s not important to relay to you just what I was doing, or where I was. We all have our stories. And just like my parents can vividly recall the moments of JFK’s assassination, we all remember watching the Towers come down in real time, seeing the Pentagon smoking, wondering what would happen to those poor people on Flight 93. We can see the look on our President’s face when his staff interrupted his visit to that elementary school.
On that day, we didn’t just feel deep sadness and loss, we were shaken. We all scrambled to locate loved ones. We embraced strangers who huddled around the televisions with us. We all heard the eerie silence of the empty skies.
We reacted in different ways. We hurried home to hug children and spouses. We were confused, maybe a little panicked. We cried, a lot. Some of us got angry.
My husband was one of those who heard the call to arms on 9/11; he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. And while he never served in the waters near the Middle East, he wore that uniform for nearly ten years. He, like so many others, truly felt like he had to do something, even if it was just to volunteer.
I was one of the lucky military wives. I never had to say good-bye on the tarmac. I never had to raise a family on the base waiting for his return. But I can relate to those wives. We made our own sacrifices – weeks and weekends that Dad wasn’t there, games and school events and even just life he missed. For a decade, I held my breath when that area code showed up on our phone, worried that this call would be THE call to duty. For a decade, I had the dream that the officer showed up on my doorstep with a flag and condolences.
Eleven years have passed since that morning in 2001. Our oldest was just 18 months old that day. Our other two children will never know a world without 9/11 remembrance ceremonies, the TSA and a War on Terror. Like me, they’ll rely on their parents’ recollections of an infamous day in history. It’s my job as their mom to slowly explain, in more detail each year, how those men changed our world. It’s my job to shield them from evil while I explain how thousands of innocent people lost their lives by going to work, by getting on an airplane, just by living life like so many days before. It’s my job to explain a fight that I don’t always fully understand myself – for ideals that are hard to explain, freedom and patriotism.
I have a partner in all of this explaining. Blessedly, one that wasn’t taken from me in the years since he first said that oath. We’ll celebrate 15 years of marriage on September 20th. But before we celebrate the highs of marriage, we’ll hold hands and say a prayer that we get it right. We will pray that we explain without over-explaining, that we’ll do a proper job of reminding those three precious people we’re raising that God wasn’t absent that day those planes were crashed. We’ll teach them to observe a day they can’t remember. We’ll teach them what it means to be Americans. Above all, we’ll teach them how to forgive the heinous sins of others while remembering those who were lost…and those they left behind.