In 2001, I woke to the faint rining of a phone.
The wasband reached over, mumbled something and sat up straight in bed.
We were in Hawaii and it was 3 am-ish.
“A plane has hit the World Trade Center,” he said and paused. “I think we should get up.”
The call was from a fellow Army officer, who had also been woken from sleep.
There we were, huddled into our living room, staring at the TV in deep disbelief.
I remember thinking “I hope they don’t go to war” before the second plane even hit the second tower.
My brother called from Germany before all lines just died for hours and hours.
Later that month, the General of our Army Base gave me a letter thanking me for being a good Army wife, because my wasband wasn’t home.
Later that fall, I stood in an apartment in upstate New York, holding a 10 week old puppy that I had gotten 2 days prior. Boxes everywhere, barely anything unpacked.
My wasband in green BDU’s at the local airport.
“Sir, I want to go with you, please take me,” a young soldier said to him in front of me.
He turned to me, a Desert Storm veteran and said “Pookie, war sucks ass. War is horrible. These kids have no idea. But it’s our job.”
Off he went.
Every day I waited for the phone to ring. I didn’t have a cell phone and for 6 weeks, I heard nothing. Just rumors. They are in Uzbekistan, in the Ukraine, maybe Afhganistan? We didn’t know.
Then one day the phone rang and there he was. Alive and well and tired and missing me. 7 minutes every 10 days. That’s what we got in that first deployment. Every phone call started with “I love you!” for fear that the line would get cut early and that he might die and I didn’t say it.
Every TV-report of American deaths put fear in my hear. Fear like you haven’t know. Because, while our relationship might have been dysfunctional, I completely adored and loved him.
“Make sure they find a piece of you, if you have to die!” I would tell him all the time. “I am not going to be able to have you “Missing in Action” for 10 years. I won’t be able to live, breath, I would wait every day for you to come home.”
No purple hearts allowed in our house. That was our rule.
But he came back with a Silver Star. Twice.
“A helicopter crashed, Fabulous”. A friend called. “What kind of friend are you?” I asked her. “I thought you wanted to know,” she mentioned.
Every day I would leave the house and go to work as a newspaper reporter.
Every day I would get overshadowed with immense fear, sudden fear, that a car is waiting for me in the driveway.
A black car. I always thought the Army would sent a black car if he died.
There were days were I avoided going home, for fear there might be a car.
There were days where I was ashamed imaging what I would do if he died.
“What kind of wife are you,” I would ask myself until another Army wife looked at me one day and said “Dude, I do the same.”
One day he called and started the conversation with “I’m ok.”
Later I learned, that a rocket barely missed him.
One day the car came. But the car didn’t come to my house. The car came to my friend’s house and I was there, at her house, when the car came. I was there with her and her 3 kids.
I will never forget that day.
“If they come, I am going to lock the door and won’t open it,” one friend always said to me. “I don’t want to know.” As if, by not acknowledging it, it wasn’t going to happen.
“I am going to open that door wide open,” I said to her. “I want to know. I have to know.”
And then he came home one day. And I saw him step off the plane and it felt like the entire universe was lifted off my shoulders.
Today, you should remember not just the 9-11 victims and family, but remember my friends, the soldiers, the airmen, the sailors, the Marines and their families.
I can’t describe how tough those months and years of deployments are and I feel for my friends who are still living through this day by day.
But I do remember it so well and deeply, on this day. Every year.