9/11: Has It Really Been Seven Years?

We'll get back to talking about the Colts in a little bit here. . .but if you'll indulge me here for a moment, I'd greatly appreciate it.

As many of you who frequent the site already know, my "day job" is that of an active duty member of the United States Air Force.  Seven years ago today, I was a 24-year old Senior Airman on a three-month temporary assignment to Tuzla AB, Bosnia.  As I had only arrived in Europe a week or so previous, I was still getting my biological clock in sync with the time difference and stuff like that.  I had worked a 12-hour mid-shift (1900 local to 0700 local the next morning) the night before, and after my shift I went to the chow hall, went back to my SEA Hut, and went to sleep in anticipation of doing the same thing the next day.

I woke up and turned on AFN (the American Forces Network) in the SEA Hut. . .and, at that point, everything had changed.  As I was just waking up, it took me a little while to get my head wrapped around exactly what was going on.  One of my roommates came through the door of the cabin and asked if I had seen what was happening.  After telling him that I had just woken up, he explained what had been going on, and it was still impossible for me to fully comprehend what was taking place.

I was able to pull myself away from the television long enough to get showered and cleaned up before my shift.  I then proceeded to the weather station, where everyone was still gathered around the TV and talking about what was going on.  The rumors were already flying around. . ."the Air Force is going to shut this base down and send everyone to Afghanistan" and so forth. . .the kind of things that would have sounded absolutely ludicrous under normal circumstances, but that sounded almost acceptable at that place and time.

Even thousands of mile away from where the attacks had taken place, things were chaotic, to say the least.  Internet communications were pretty much non-existent for the better part of the evening, as they had been locked down for security purposes.  Even the phone system was limited to on-base communications.  Letting everyone on the other side of the pond know that we were okay and that nothing had happened at our location wasn't possible until towards the end of my shift.  As the airfield had closed and the folks from Base Operations had finished for the evening, I was the only person in our office when, finally, the phone rang.

The voice on the other end of the phone was that of the base commander.  The Air Force shared Eagle Base with the Army, and there was a huge flagpole on each side of base.  The one on the Air Force side just happened to be situated outside of our building.  As I was the only person there, I was told that after my next weather observation was sent out, it was my job to go to the flagpole and lower it to half-staff in light of the day's events.

It wasn't until that point that the enormity of what had happened hit me.  It was a feeling that I had never experienced before, and it caused me to pretty much completely lose it right there by the flagpole.  The thought of all of those people. . .the plane passengers, the policemen, the firefighters, the medical personnel. . .that had lost their lives in something so senseless and so awful was enough to rip your soul in half.

I still get that feeling every single year on this date.

I doubt that it will ever stop occurring.

This date, regardless of your political leanings or your opinions on current events, is a day for everybody to remember and honor the people that lost their lives on 11 September 2001, and a day to remember all of the folks that have died since in the service of our country since then, whether it happened on American soil or foreign soil.  This is still the greatest damn place in the world to live, and there are people out there in many different walks of life that give of themselves because of that same belief.

If there's a 9/11 memorial in your town today, I encourage you to attend.  If you see a policeman or a fire fighter or a military member in your travels today, I encourage you to shake their hand and say "Thank You."  And if you lost someone on that fateful day. . .and you probably don't need me to tell you this. . .but keep them in your hearts and in your prayers.  I'll certainly be keeping them in mine.

Seven years.  No matter how many years go by, we'll always remember.

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