On September 11, 2001, I was in the delayed enlisted program to join the USAF. I was to become an airborne surveillance technician on AWACS and was just amazed that I got a flying job in the USAF (contrary to popular belief, only 2% of the USAF actually flies on a regular basis). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that at that time I had never flown on an airplane. Since my job had a backlog, I was in the civilian world waiting for my training day in January 2002. In the meantime, I was an au pair for a wealthy family on a lake near Johnson City, TN. The family had just moved in and there was no satellite tv yet. In fact, the satellite company was at the house and the mother was arguing and frustrated with the company because of the late installment. I already was surrounded with negative energy and stress. And then my mom called. She frantically updated me from the first plane to the falling of the towers and asked me not to go through with joining the USAF. When I got off work, I went to an internet coffee shop (these were HUGE at this time) that had a tv replaying earlier events. I saw people jumping from buildings and that was all I needed to see. I turned around and drove to the lake house and sat on the balcony overlooking the lake. I wanted to be alone with God. It was nighttime and the lake was so calm and the stars twinkled in the country sky. It was hard to believe that we were a country at war. I bathed in that moment because I knew that I would have to be a different person in the USAF. That I wouldn’t be able to show my soft side. That I would have to sacrifice the artist in me because of the stress. I bathed in who I was then. In innocence. I was 18 years old.
On Sept 16, I turned 19 and was still waiting. One late night, I pulled into my driveway in Virginia where my father resided. I will never forget the moment that I stepped onto the pavement. The air was eery and still and smelled of metallic. It smelled like blood. I was alone, got goosebumps and a little freaked out, rushed in the house and turned on the tv. I knew something was wrong. The news proved my gut feeling to be right- the first bombs had just been dropped on Afghanistan. So much chaos and loss has unfolded since then.
Tonight, I saw full minute to minute coverage of the 9-11 incidents for the first time in my life. I grieved for the families in a way that I didn’t get to in 2001. Normal people made such brave decisions on that fateful day. I thought about what I knew then and what I know now. I deliberated if I really made a difference with my service in the USAF. I pondered if this war on hate can even be won with the rapid evolvement of communication and information overload. I see people caring too much of how they look on the outside instead of cultivating their souls. I see lots of distractions (is your radio or tv playing right now? mine are). I see the state of our economy and our country and post peak oil production and overpopulation and wild weather swings that relate to climate change. No matter the circumstances, I’m still enthusiastic about the future. I get sad at this time of the year but I try to counter that by accepting all the shades of grey while praising the colors. Choosing happiness and realizing that each day is a miracle.
Freedom is worth fighting for and I don’t regret a single day that I served this great nation. I actually thrived in the military but a part of me was missing– a part of me that couldn’t be as creative and spirited. I think it’s because I have such a wild spirit. I have the utmost respect for my brothers and sisters in arms. Their sacrifice is beyond a civilian’s comprehension. A decade later- I choose to fight with peace, compassion and serving humanity with my whole loving heart. I hope that everyone takes the time to look up at the stars and feel a warm balance between childlike innocence and the beauty of something bigger than ourselves. Life is not always easy but we need each other to turn the downs into ups.
I will never forget. And I will never give up. For I was given this precious day.