Remembering 9/11: September 11th, My Son and Duty

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Remembering 9/11: September 11th, My Son and Duty

Remembering 9/11: September 11th, My Son and Duty

Sixteen years ago and yet the events of that day are as clear as if they happened yesterday. I’d slept in later than usual and had stumbled into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. The TV was on in the other room. It was tuned to The Today Show. Then, as I reached for a mug, I heard a gasp, followed by news that a second plane – A SECOND PLANE? – had hit the Twin Towers. Coffee forgotten, I rushed into the den to find out what happened. It was a nightmare, but one from which this country wouldn’t awaken. September 11th became, for my generation and for my son’s, our “day that will live in infamy”. That day changed the country and it set my son, then 11-years-old, on a path for the rest of his life.

I remember watching my mother, who hadn’t been as old as my son when Pearl Harbor was attacked, watching the video from New York, from the Pentagon, from Shanksville. Tears glistened in her eyes as she wondered if history was about to repeat itself and thrust our country into a new world war. I remember standing in a line that stretched around a strip mall as more than 150 people waited to donate blood. It was all we could do. We were more than a thousand miles from Ground Zero. I remember the two men, American Airlines executives, working their phones, trying to get information about those they knew who officed in the Twin Towers. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces as they learned of those who made it out and those no one had seen since the planes hit. I remember the fear that raced through the line when a lone plane flew over, hours after the no-fly order had been put into place. I remember how our community, so far from the action, pulled together to find ways to help those who needed it.

First responders run from dust cloud caused by the collapse of Tower One.
credit: Jose Jimenez / Primera Horu / Getty images

Most of all, I remember my son. He was in school. Later, after he was home, we discussed what happened. We listened as President Bush addressed the nation. We watched as New York and the Pentagon began digging out and then rebuilding. I remember some very frank discussions about why those targets had been hit instead of the terrorists hitting military or government targets. We talked about the bravery of those men and women – the first responders, the passengers on Flight 77 and so many others – who risked their lives to save others. So many lost their lives that day. What I did not realize then was they made an impression on my son that would not fade.

Shortly after the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11, I spoke to my son. He was in college by then. I’d known he was considering joining the military after graduation. It was hard not to. He’d been in JROTC in middle school and high school. Once accepted to Texas A&M, he joined the Corps of Cadets. He thrived in that atmosphere and, well, he comes from a family with a strong military history going back to the Revolutionary War.

Air Force Honor
© swambolt

I’m not sure why I asked about his plans in that conversation, but I did. There was a pause and then he told me he’d already signed his contract with the Air Force. In fact, he and some of his buddies in the Corps had signed on the same day. My heart beat a bit faster and my breath caught for a moment before I asked when. What day had he made it official.


They each thought it the best day to pledge back to the country that had already done so much for them. I’ll admit I cried, not tears of fear or anger but tears of pride. As I write this, my eyes fill with tears again. The enemy thought they’d strike a killing blow to our country that day. Instead, they created a new generation of young men and women like my son, people dedicated to protecting and serving the Republic whether as first responders or members of the military. God bless them all.

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