I do have some clear memories of September 11th, 2001, but most of that day is kind of hazy in my mind. That morning, I was sitting on my bed, listening to the radio. I remember that I heard something about a plane flying into the Pentagon. I remember that it just didn't really compute, and that I really couldn't frame what I'd just heard. My sister Liz, who was living in Gaithersburg, Maryland at the time (very close to D.C.) called. She asked, "Rae, have you been watching the news?" And I remember being shocked when she explained to me what had happened, and confirmed that what I'd listened to on the radio was something real, something happening right then, something that (of course) demanded immediate attention. She was due any day with her first baby, and I remember her talking to my mom and us wondering if she would get to the hospital in good time, should she deliver soon, and then feeling somewhat ashamed that we were worrying about that. (She delivered him on the 13th! Take that, terrorists!)
Phill and I had been engaged just 18 days earlier, and I remember that I didn't see him or my dad until extremely late that night. I remember that they were close-lipped about a lot of things, heavy-hearted, and we all just sort of held each other for a while after they walked in the door. I remember asking my dad if we were going to war, if we knew who did this, and if we were going to fight. I remember the way his jaw set, and I remember him telling me that he knew more than he was allowed to say, but that I should rest assured that we would fight back. I remember being proud of my country, proud of my Phill and my dad.
That night, though, after we were all in bed (and probably not at all asleep), I wrote in my journal. I was sobbing and finally overcome by all that had transpired that day. I remember writing that with this huge evidence of the many evils in this world, I was afraid to have children. I remember feeling that some light in me had been extinguished, some feeling of safety and some semblance of normal everyday life. I wrote how guilty I felt for feeling as shaken as I was, when I knew so many more were suffering so much more than I. I put away my journal, laid down in my bed, and was just shaking for a long time and crying. I continued to pray long into the night, and I finally felt reassured at some wee hours in the morning. I got up to write in my journal, feeling strong and brave and peaceful. I wrote that I was not going to be scared, and that I was just going to strengthen my resolve to have children, be a good mother to them, and raise them in a way that would make it so that they were my lasting evidence that I was fighting evil with good; fighting evil with strong personalities and strong children who love their country and are willing to defend it. I knew that this was yet another way that the adversary tries to silence us with fear, to make us cower in the shadows in despair and give up hope that we can make the world a better place by our choices.
I remember very clearly that I chose to be happy, to marry Phill, and to have children and to be brave, even if worse things might be coming. So this day makes me fiercely proud of my choice to be a mother.
The next morning, after my mother taught early-morning seminary, we drove together to take some of the students to school. I can still see clearly the lines of cars waiting to get onto (the military) post (every single car going on post that day was inspected: every bolt, every curve, every part of every car searched to within the last centimeter). I also see clearly the faces of all those in the cars next to and in front of us, faces that were not impatient in their waiting, but thoughtful and quiet. Faces that turned happy with tears of pride and joy as the national anthem came on the radio, and every single car rolled down their windows, turned up their radios full-blast, and honked and waved tiny American flags as we crept along, occasionally passing people holding posters reading, "Honk if you love America!"
So whenever this date comes, while I am solemnly mindful of those who were lost that day, those who lost someone they loved, and the way it changed so much, I can't help but be proud to be an American, proud to be a mother, and proud to be the wife of a soldier and daughter of a soldier. I feel like I am beating the terrorists who do things like this, fighting the entire mind-set of those who do these things, fighting them with my refusal to let this affect my decision to press on and endure with a happy heart.
So on this day I always think: Am I happy? And I feel that every time I can say honestly Yes, I'm happy--then we are winning.
These pictures are a little random, considering Phill wasn't deployed until 2003 (and 2005), but they seem appropriate based on context.
The soldiers at Ft.Carson all prepared for deployment - April 2003
Our see-you-later (this started as one of those sick-feeling dark early mornings....my stomach does weird little twisting things just looking at this!) -- Reed is 4 months (ish)
Something I made while he was on his second tour (still think it's hilarious that they call it a tour)
2005 (Reed is 2)
November 21st, 2002 (Note that Phill is still in uniform. Hee hee....he came right from work.)
I remember thinking that DCU's looked so weird. (DCU's are these lighter-colored uniforms they now have and that he didn't have until deployment....up until then it was the green BDU's and that was what I was used to!)
Phill and his gorgeous sister, Melissa, who lived with me for 2 months of the 3 months he was gone that first time. He kept being so silly and making us laugh and then of course I'd start crying again!