Never Forget, always honor

Mourners line the walk at the memorial service for 1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman, a Marine killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan November2, 2010.

Mourners line the walk at the memorial service for 1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman,
a Marine killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan November 2, 2010.

I will never forget where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. My radio alarm went off just before 6 AM in Southern California. As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I heard the newscaster say that a plane had just struck the World Trade Center in New York. I went into the living room and turned on the TV to try and get some additional information. As I did, I saw the image of the burning North Tower. Just moments later the second plane appeared and crashed into the South Tower before my stunned eyes. I immediately knew that it was no accident but had no idea of the repercussions that would follow.

I was home alone that morning with my two teenage children as my husband was in Calaveras County with his inmate crew fighting the 14,000 acre Darby Fire. It fell to me to try and make sense of this tragic event so that I could try to help my kids understand it as well. But it made no sense. My son had returned home less than a month earlier from a summer program at the Coast Guard Academy and was just starting his senior year of High School. My daughter was two years younger. Their parochial school was twenty miles away and he usually drove them both to school. Was it safe to be on the road? Would classes be cancelled for the day? What about the Post Office where I worked as the Postmaster? So many questions and so few answers. Somehow we got through that awful morning, but that would be just the beginning of the ways in which our lives were changed forever.

My son ultimately decided on the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT as his college of choice.  He entered the Corp of Cadets in the summer of 2002. Less than eight months later, In March of 2003 President Bush announced the war with Iraq and the establishment of a new cabinet department, Homeland Security. The Coast Guard would become part of that and  their mission would become more military and less life saving. My son was torn, he had chosen the Coast Guard to make a difference, give back and, hopefully, save lives, not engage in war. When my daughter graduated high school two years later, she accepted a Navy ROTC scholarship to the University of Maine. She also wanted to make a difference, give back and save lives, but knew that she was committing to a fighting force. I am proud to say that both completed their college degrees and continue to serve this country in their respective branches.

In the 12 years since the 9/11 attacks, the world has changed in unimaginable ways. Airport security is a way of life and as citizens we have given up personal privacy in the name of homeland security. In addition to the 2700+ people who were killed in the bombing, including over 400 police and firefighters, more than 6500 American troops have lost their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including my daughter’s close friend and classmate.  I will never forget and I will always honor their service.

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