When the World Stopped Turning That September Day
by J. Anthony
As soon as the clock struck midnight on Monday, September 10, 2001, I reported to the battalion staff duty officer at my unit on Fort Lewis. It would be my last time seeing that place. I signed out for good this time, as I would not return. Before I was to report to my new duty assignment in Vicenza, Italy, I had some plans of my own. The first order of business? I’d be sleeping in tomorrow, Tuesday, 9/11. It was the first day of my 45-day leave…
Only, the sleeping in part never happened. I got a phone call from a friend just minutes after the second plane collided with the second tower. Besides all the confusion, frustration, angst, and even anger, I couldn’t just throw on the uniform and get involved. I had no assignment! No chain of command. I felt so helpless.
I remember calling in to local radio shows on occasion, weighing in on some of the military discussions. That was the last and only time I ever recall everyone on all sides of the political spectrum putting differences aside and making a sincere effort to simply be there for one another.
For the next month and a half, I was in sort of a “floating” status, where I didn’t belong to Fort Lewis anymore, but Vicenza hadn’t yet heard of me. So there was nobody to tell me to get my butt in gear and get somewhere. The 45-day uber-vacation turned out to be a constant period of anxiety over what was about to happen and where I would be headed. By the time I actually got on the plane, my old unit had already parachuted into Afghanistan and fought the initial battles of OEF, and I suspected my new unit would be close behind. As I learned soon enough, the rest of my military career would never be the same. However, there’s nothing like an instant immersion course in international studies.
George Orwell once said, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” I believe that in order to preserve peace in a world where evil will always resurface, war is an occasional but unfortunate necessity. And when we clear the smoke cloud put over us by mass media, Iraq has proven that wars fought for noble causes will eventually defeat violence. I thank God for every soldier who has ever donned the American uniform, from Fort Ticonderoga, New York to the Byanbar Province in Iraq. On those nights when I’m not reminiscing about my buddies who have fallen, never to return home, I sleep very peaceably knowing that we have rough and ready men (and women) serving us still.
God Bless America. I’ll be proudly displaying Old Glory and salutng her this September 11.
~In memory of all the innocent victims of September 11, 2001, and the veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.~