I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard about the event that would come to be known simply as 9/11. I can tell you everything I did that day. I remember calling my mother just to say, “I love you”, even though I knew she was perfectly safe. I remember buying the newspaper because I was going to be a history teacher, and I knew I would want the clippings. I knew the country changed that day. What I didn’t know is how it would change my life. Well, maybe not change my life, but certainly affect it…deeply.
I’m pulling out an old note I wrote on Facebook in 2008. I wrote this the day after my brothers left for war. Before you read this, know that both of my brothers came home safe…but changed. This is just a sister, processing, loving, protecting, in the moment, freaking out. It doesn’t seem real that this was me, I feel so removed from it now. But, it was…it is, and that year changed the dynamics in my family. So, without further ado…
We found out a year ago….the boys are going to Iraq. They were so excited…we were pretty reluctant. At first it was mildly surreal. Iraq? My sister has lived in Kuwait for 2 years now and she’s been perfectly safe….but Iraq? That means they’re going off to war…..why are they so excited about this?
Saturday morning Jon called me back. The deployment ceremony would be at 3pm. Wow. Today? Deployment …today? It seems so soon. Suddenly it hit me. The emotion that I had been putting off for a year hit me. My little brothers are going off to war. Oh…they don’t think that they’re my little brothers. They think they’re men. And they’re right…they are. And I’m proud of both of them. But they’re still going off to war….and that’s just weird.
The dam broke and emotion flooded my heart. The countdown had begun. 3pm was just around the corner…deployment. mobilization. iraq. texas. one year. one month. today. iraq. war. they’re safe. they’re my little brothers. they’re going off to war.
Jon kept calling to see where we were…he was still taking care of us. He won’t be here for a year. “we’re right around the corner Jon…we’ll be there in a second” We walk through the door…he’s standing and waving amid a sea of uniforms. Everybody looks the same. my brothers are going off to war. And the tears come. Somehow we made it through the deployment ceremony. Then the pictures. Will these be the last? No…I know they won’t…but the thought still lingers and there is nothing I can do to chase it away.
The wait begins. Dinner is a mess. Everybody is crying. What do you say when you watch twins sitting next to each other about to be separated. How do you respond when you see a father hug his son tight and whisper….”don’t do anything stupid..please don’t do anything stupid.” Or when he asks his wife to leave so he can make sure that he’s called if “anything happens…I have to be the one to tell your mother”. I wish he had asked me to leave too. More tears. More pictures. Hugs. I broke when I watched my dad hug them goodbye. I looked at my mom and “shit” was the only thing that came out. I hug jonathan. I just have to hold him….to wrap my arms around him one more time. Somehow we’re smiling. Somehow we’re laughing. The prolonged goodbye continues. We plan on meeting back at 2 am for the final goodbye
The next few hours creep by. What do you talk about when goodbye is right around the corner? I had to leave…the heaviness was just too much, I was tired of crying, I was tired of watching my brothers pack. brian came and picked me up and we drove. He listened and I cried and then we played with toys in Walmart…I had to go back. One more time..sleep is all I can think about at this point. It’s been a long day. We’re off to the base now….it’s 1:30 in the morning. Nobody is really talking. Nobody knows what to say. Where are my keys? I’ve lost them in the mess.
There are bags all around. directions for where to go. Jon is waving again. The real waiting begins…it’s 2am and they’re the last group to leave. We have a long night ahead of us. All I wanted was a bed, but how do you leave when you’re brothers are going off to war? how do say goodbye early? you don’t. you wait…and the night creeps on. Beside us is a young married couple…how long they’ve been married I’ll never know. But she’s pregnant. About 6 months from the looks of it. He’s going off to war. He won’t be home for the birth of his child, he won’t be home for the first several months of it’s little life. His wife will have to go through labor alone, and her husband will be on the edge of his seat several thousand miles away. It seems so wrong. His hand never leaves her stomach, he bends over and kisses her pregnant belly. My heart is breaking. I watch them all night long.
And then their plane is here. they’re loading their bags. I watch them…I’m tired, but i’m proud. My little brothers are all grown up. They’re men now. And they’re going off to war. They are going because it is their duty. They are going because we live in a free country and that comes at a price. They are going so that others can be free. They are paying the price that some refuse to pay but take great advantage of. They are soldiers, they are now warriors, and they are my brothers.
If you would like to see pictures from the deployment click here
How did 9/11 affect you?