September 11, 2011
10 years ago today I was a stay-at-home mom to a 3 month old and living on base at Camp Lejeune Marine Base in North Carolina. My husband, who was in the Navy at that time, was stationed at the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. We had just moved on base 3 months prior (yes, just a few days after my daughter was born) and had been living this quiet utopian life. Living on base is rather interesting because you are immersed and saturated in this very socialistic, communal, and shielded environment. We lived in officer housing. Our house was a modest 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house that was probably built in the early 50s. I believe the model was called “Cracker Jack”. Our mailboxes were in the backyards were there was a small service road. The park was around the corner. Our church and the commisary were about a 2 min drive away. It was so quiet.
But 10 years ago today, my husband and I woke up to the terror of 9/11. We woke up and turned the TV to Good Morning America as usual. The first tower had just been hit. Minutes after the Pentagon attack had occurred, my husband received a phone call to get his bag ready for possible mobilization. Fortunately, he didn’t have to deploy. However, by the end of the day the neighborhood was empty. Camp Lejeune was one of the first to send Marine Expeditionary Units in response to the attacks. The husbands were now gone and yellow ribbons on trees and every lamp post were there in their place.
Our utopian existence in a peaceful world was now over.
Today, 10 years later, we are in a different place, mindset, and paradigm from where we were. Partly because we are 10 years older and not a naive young family. Partly because we know our world isn’t shielded from the unexpected.
A full circle moment, I had the opportunity today to see and touch some artifacts from that fateful day. Pieces of the wreckage from both the WTC and the Pentagon have been distributed to all of the 50 states so that memorials can be set up across the nation. Fortunately for me, the artifacts were only 20 minutes away. There lied a segment of a steel beam from the WTC and a portion of a wall from the Pentagon.
Laying my hands on it was surreal. I spent the morning watching the 10th anniversary memorial and seeing replays of the original telecasts as the “cascade of terror” was underway. Now in my hands were pieces of history. But they weren’t memorial pieces of the darkness and evil that our nation was victim of. They were symbols of a rebirth. We have changed as people from that day.
Directly after the attacks, there was a national communal spirit. A sense of brotherhood and family where everyone and anyone was willing to help one another out. We connected through our feelings-sadness, grief, depression, love… That event stripped us down as a nation to our most raw form-basic human beings. All the BS that socializes us to think and react a certain way became insignificant. But was this paradigm change shortlived? Does it have to take a catastrophe to realize our humanity?