Remembering 9/11 as a Military Spouse (and Five Ways You Can Honor the Day)

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My narrative of the events of September 11th won’t shed light on anything newsworthy. It’s one perspective by a military spouse; it is not reflective of all spouses. It’s simply a way to remember and honor the day, the victims, the survivors, the heroes, the families, and those that humbly served in a war that followed the attacks.

September 11, 2001. It’s a date we all know. The day in most recent history that the United States was attacked by a foreign party. It’s a day that shocked our country. A day that many innocent Americans were killed, leaving their families and friends behind to grapple with the loss. It’s the day that called our U.S. Military forces into action, and away from peace-keeping missions. It’s a day that changed the trajectory of the lives of millions.

It’s been twenty years, a lifetime for some, and I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around it all, nor worked through the emotional turmoil.

I was twenty-three years old, married for less than two years, and living with my husband on Nellis Air Force Base. The Air Force was my husband’s job; he didn’t enlist from a childhood dream of serving. He just wanted to have a career that would provide for us, and he knew that serving in the military would do that. While we knew that a military career ran a risk of wartime, we were young and looking at the world through rose-colored glasses and dreaming of all the fun things we would do. 

I still remember that morning. Our phone rang at an early hour. My husband answered and quickly jumped out of bed, mumbling something about a “recall” and having to go into work right at that moment. Recalls happened occasionally, so I thought nothing of it and stayed in bed. Shortly after my husband left for work, the phone rang again. This time it was my friend, Jeanie, telling me to turn on the television.

It was then I knew this wasn’t a normal recall, and that sometime in the near future my husband would deploy. 

Quiet chaos enveloped the base. The lines to get onto base were miserably long, and cars had to be searched, passengers had to exit vehicles. The stores and services were briefly shuttered while new policies were created. The normally busy streets were empty during work hours.

It’s at this point, after the attacks, that my experiences are simply my own. Every other military spouse has his or her own experiences and emotions related to that day and the following twenty years. 

Some claim the country was more united in those days, and in a sense it was. Flags were flying in abundance, people were supportive of our military and first responders, people were checking in on their neighbors – our focus shifted outward.

But we can’t simply romanticize the days after 9/11. Fear also ran rampant and anger manifested in racism towards the Muslim communities and people with dark complexions. There was anger and vitriol spewed towards our political leaders making the decisions to send our troops into war.

Twenty years later, September 11th has become a moment of silence. Lives have been lived and lost. Time passed has made the day easier to handle. The busyness of life serves as a distraction. I always pause, let the emotions come back for a few minutes, and then I pray for those still hurting, for those currently deployed, and those that have deployed in support of the war, and give thanks for protection.

I look at my husband and remember our life in those days, and I pray for him, too. 

5 Ways You Can Honor 9/11:

1. Check in with your veteran friends and let them know you appreciate their service and sacrifices. 

2. Take some time with your family and friends to honor the victims, survivors, first responders, and military members that day. Whether it’s praying for them, sending good vibes, a toast before you drink, or pouring one out for your homies… just do something small to acknowledge the devastation that has transpired because of the attacks.

3. Visit a National Cemetery near you. They will be hosting wreath-laying ceremonies to commemorate the day.
 
4. Participate in a virtual stair climb by climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
 
5. Participate in the six moments of silence (marked for when each plane crashed into the Twin Towers and when they fell, the attack on the Pentagon, and when Flight 93 crashed).

 

 

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