We are approaching the ninth anniversary of September 11th, when close to 3000 people in New York City, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia died. After nine years, not much has changed at “Ground Zero”—we still have a gaping hole in the ground and people arguing about what should and should not be there and in the surrounding area. Not much has changed in the world, either. We still have men and women going overseas to fight, defend, and protect, many of them losing life and limb to do so. Regardless of our personal political leanings, I think we can all agree on those statements.
I went to visit my sister in Savannah a few weeks ago. She lives in a suburb which is populated mostly by military personnel and their families. She has told me that many of their friends serve in the Armed Forces, but I didn’t give it much thought until my mom, child #1, and I headed to the Savannah airport for our trip home, not a care in the world as we wended our way through the airport. (A post for another time: why is it that my gate is always the farthest from the entrance of the airport?) We passed many men and women in military garb and when we got to our gate, sat beside a family—a dad in camo, a young mother, a little girl, and a teeny-tiny baby who we came to learn was a week old. Very soon, it dawned on us that they weren’t waiting for someone to arrive, they were waiting for him to leave. As he held the baby in his hands, staring at her face, seemingly imprinting her image on his brain, we turned to face the other way, not wanting to intrude on what was a very private moment between a man, his wife, and their two children. I don’t know how long he’ll be away, but I do know that he left a very sad family behind. I also know that he will, most likely, miss the second child’s infancy. How old will she be when he returns? Will she be walking? Talking? I don’t know, but I pray that his time overseas will be short as well as safe.
He was just one of many who were departing that day. Another young girl—and I swear, these young mothers look to be barely out of their teens, but I think that’s a function of seeing them through my middle-aged lens—held a nine-month old who was rambunctious and active as they stood by the window waiting until her husband’s plane was completely out of sight before leaving the airport. Another man left behind five children and a sobbing wife. I consider myself to be pretty sensitive but realized I hadn’t given too much thought to the sacrifices that are made every day in the name of freedom. Seeing these families drove the point home.
We are close to a family who have a very personal connection to 9/11. Recently, their youngest son—just a toddler when our families became friends—enlisted in the Marine Corps on his eighteenth birthday. We were all stunned, to say the least. In our groovy village, populated by the last-remaining hippies and a new generation of artistic types, this type of action is virtually unheard of. He leaves next year for basic training and after that, deployment. To me, he still looks like the little tow-headed toddler I met when my oldest was just weeks old but he’s a man by the military’s standards and old enough to make his own decisions as to what to do with his life.
It’s naïve to think that we will ever live in a world where an armed force won’t be necessary so until that time, I think the best we can do is support our troops and pray that they come home sooner rather than later to see the children they left behind and kiss the husbands, wives, and partners who kept down the home front in their absence.
And please take a moment this weekend to remember our fellow citizens who perished on that awful, awful day.