Reflections of 9/11: One Soldiers Story

Today offers an opportunity of reflection. 16 years ago every heart in America was in mourning. On 9/11/2001 there were 2,997 American lives were lost (per CNN) in the heinous acts of terrorism. For some, today is a day like any other, others will forever mourn for those they lost. For many of us though, if we take the time to reflect on the last 16 years, we can see the impact this date has had on our lives, on our story, on our journey. This is the tale of how 9/11 affected my journey.

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Ladder 3, taken at 9/11 Memorial Museum

I remember it vividly. I was working as a gardener in northern Michigan, and I was all of 19 years old. On my team that day was a Jamaican immigrant woman, one whom I had grown very fond of. She had a smile that would brighten anyone’s dull moment, and an innocent, child like laugh that could ease the tension of the labor intense job. We had just pulled up to a job site, and the radio started pouring out the most confusing words. I couldn’t make sense of it. The broadcaster was relaying something about planes crashing into buildings, and buildings falling, and people dying.

New York was a place far away from the rural, vacation homes I was servicing on Lake Michigan. Suddenly though, I was there. My heart was right smack dab in the middle of the city, along with every other American heart.  As the news of several terrorist attacks pierced my ears on the radio, confusion began, and fear rolled in like a dense fog. Suddenly, tears fell from my eyes, mimicking the morning dew I watched on the blades of grass in front of me. My Jamaican counterpart sat in silence and cried with me. There were no words to be said. We had to continue about our business for the day while trying to process what was happening to our beloved nation. Our hearts mourned for our brothers and sisters in the city, but our hands had to continue to bring forth the life of the plants before us. I don’t know what became of my gardening sister, but I’ve gained a tremendous amount of life since that fateful day.

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Impact Steel, taken at 9/11 Memorial Museum

Flash forward 16 years, and I’m telling my sweet, level 10 friend, that I am grateful to have her in my life and being with my group of soul-searching, bible studying sisters makes me feel my heart is “home.” I’m now in Texas, a far distance from Michigan where my 9/11 journey began so long ago. It is because of 9/11 that I am here, doing life with these fabulous women. It is because of 9/11 I am here, living where I am, doing life the way I do it.

9/11 was in part, where my recovery journey began, it was when my selfish flesh fell off my body like a wool coat in the spring. 9/11/2001 was a painful time in my life. I was a young woman, hell-bent on making it on my own, with no plans for education or a future. I lived in the here and now, but I also lived in the painful past, my heart was in constant turmoil. I medicated the turmoil with drugs, alcohol, and sex until I felt nothing. It was a pattern that had taken control of my life.

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Survivors Staircase, taken at the 9/11 Memorial Museum

Just two months after 9/11 I got a call from an Army recruiter that would help shape my destiny. He offered me college, travel, and a future. I took it. I shipped for basic within weeks and never looked back. I did it for my country, but I also did it for myself. I needed to recover from my poor life choices and make something of this life, and I needed to do it for those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11. I made it through basic training, the top in my class. I was stationed in Texas and met the love of my life just a few months later, my present husband and soul mate.

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Fishing in Saddam Hussein’s Palace pond.

It was now March, 2003, and I was deploying to fight terrorists in Iraq. I was part of something way bigger than myself. I was proud of our nations response to 9/11, and I was proud of the support we received from the people. I took the orders from our Commander-in-Chief to go to war as a selfless duty that I was fully capable, trained, and ready for. So I went. The battle we faced was one unlike any other. It was brutal, the enemy had tactics not seen before, and we suffered logistical nightmares that left us soldiers going without necessities. My husband and I still struggle with the long-term effects of PTSD, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud of our service to our country in their time of need and would do it again if required.

3 years ago I was on a mission in Fort Dix, NJ and had an opportunity to visit the 9/11 Ground Zero Museum. It was then that I realized just how content I was with answering the call that day with the Army recruiter. My fingers felt the heat of the mid day sun as they grazed over the warm wall. The warm sensation was interrupted by divots, lines carved into the smooth wall that formed letters. The letters formed names of the victims who give their lives when the towers fell. The names resonated with my heart, and my heart resonated with duty, and purpose, and calling. God was speaking to me. What he told me that day, was that reflection is one of our greatest gifts. Reflection is an opportunity to experience transcendence. We were all connected; the souls lost, God, and my life. They were all connected, in one brief moment, almost too short to notice.

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Taken at 9/11 Memorial

It is because of 9/11 that I found a purpose for my life, and a higher calling from above to serve, selflessly. It is because of 9/11 that I have 16 years in the military. It is because of 9/11 that I will complete my MA in Addictions Counseling this year, and will become a LCDC (Liscensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) in the state of Texas. It is because of 9/11 that I had the opportunity to meet my soul mate on my patriotic journey, and it is because of 9/11 that I am a mother of two amazing girls that are going to change the world someday. It is because of 9/11 that I answered my true calling.

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I challenge you today, to take a moment and reflect on the impact 9/11 has had on your life. Connect the dots and you will form a very clear line, a line between the victims lost, and your heart and purpose. You’ll see that we really are all connected on this journey, as brothers and sisters in this great nation. In a current time of constant division and turmoil, a time when political divides are at an all time high, I challenge you on this Patriot’s Day; instead see unity.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. (Matthew 12:25)

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