A Different Kind of 9/11 Anniversary: A Veteran’s Story
While the world marks the 13th anniversary of the day that changed everything, I am marking a different kind of anniversary, although it’s certainly related to the terror attacks in New York, Washington, and the one foiled in Somerset P.A.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of my reporting for duty as part of President Bush’s activation of the Individual Ready Reserve in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps someone in the administrative part of the Pentagon had a sick sense of humor, but we were to report for duty in South Carolina on 9/11/2004.
A month earlier, I was sitting in a cubicle working at a title insurance company – America was in the middle of a mortgage boom after all, a sign that things would be okay – certain that any day I’d be fired. As much as I needed the gig, I welcomed it because it was a special kind of hell. Or so I thought. The phone rang, and when I answered I was greeted with a wail of tears and shrieks I knew belonged to my mother.
Immediately, from the profound sorrow in her voice, I knew someone had died. I had an elderly aunt, but I also feared for my not-yet three-year-old daughter. Luckily, the someone who died was just going to be me.
I had gotten orders to report for duty in Iraq, and of course my mother had feared the worst. So, on the morning of September 11, 2004, the third anniversary of the most horrific attack on this country in history, I headed to the airport. By Christmas, I was in Iraq.
A decade later, the President, who campaigned to end the wars, gave a prime-time address in which he repeatedly assured the country that while he wasn’t calling up ground troops, we were going to war again. Or perhaps it’s the same war, a redux.
The best piece of writing in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, I believe came from Hunter S. Thompson who was writing a weekly column* for ESPN’s Page 2 website. In it he wrote perhaps the most chilling and prescient paragraph of his career.
“The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.”
*It is one of the few, perhaps the only, internet-only writing done on a typewriter and faxed to some hapless intern to type up and code.