Hello Past Self,
There you are, getting dressed for school on September 11, 2002. You just said aloud, “I’m not sure how to feel about today. It’s surreal. What will it be like to look back and remember September 2001 for the rest of my life?”
You asked a question into the future, so here I am. It’s September 11, 2014 and the truth is that today still feels surreal. There is so much you don’t know about remembering this day. Then again, it has only been a year since you watched the towers fall. You walked down the silent halls of the school with your honorary big-brother-Allen who came home and quietly said, “I’m of age to go to war.” At the end of the hall your mom answered the school telephones, assuring parents that the children were safe and being cared for as if they were the teachers’ own. Only one mother picked her child up. You sat in class and listened to the radio. Go ahead and put on your red, white, and blue for the Spirit Day. I’ll climb into Grandma’s hand-me-down Mercury Sable with you. Duct tape the cup-holder– it will break next week. Shhh…listen to President Bush’s address on the radio. You will remember these words a decade from now.
This day last year did change your entire life. If you could hear me as I walk with you, this is how I would answer your question:
Today your fellow classmates will consider joining the military after high school. Some will– and others will have mothers tell them it isn’t worth it. You don’t know that later this year you will be accepted into your favorite university. You don’t know that you will meet the man of your dreams who will spend 8 years fighting your nightmares. You will never again know a time when war isn’t on your mind.
You will live all over the world, showing your ID at checkpoints and learning to love all kinds of people you never would have met. You will send your man to war again and again. You will make amazing friends and learn a new lingo. You will watch Americans picket and protest each other and debate what is worth fighting for.
You will work in an amazing museum teaching children about the US Infantry. One day the 5th graders will say they don’t know about Saddam Husein. They won’t grasp the importance of his statue falling or how “bombs over Baghdad” looked. You will tell them about September 11 and they will tell you they were in diapers and don’t really know about it.
You won’t forget that. You will resolve to teach your children about it as you stand next to a Bradley at the top of the 100 Yards with the recorded sounds of boots marching ringing in your ears.
Oh, the things you will see. Saddam will be captured, tried, and killed. Osama Bin Laden will be killed as well. I know it seems like that won’t happen sometimes, but have hope. It will. You will help your husband pack for war with only 48 hours notice. You will receive calls that his buddies have been injured and killed. This will happen every week for months one year. You will cry as you iron the shirts he isn’t wearing and then the phone will ring. It will be HIS voice telling you he is safe. You will pray and thank God. That spring simply hearing the Star Spangled Banner and TAPS will make you cry. You will pray your soldier makes it back for the birth of his sons.
You will feel the greatest joy and love from the lifestyle that September 11, 2001 will usher in. I wish I could warn your or adequately prepare you, but it isn’t possible. Your heart will just have to grow.
Although you are nervous that you might not bear children, God will grant you sons, Sweet Girl. Yes, sons. They will grow up watching Daddy leave and come back over and over again.
Right now you watch presidential addresses and the news with rapt attention. There will come a day when you don’t even turn on the television because you are putting your kids to bed and saying prayers. You will wonder if this is worth the cost. Remembering how today feels will remind you that Freedom is always worth fighting for.
Try not to get too enraged when people wonder why we need to remember. Today is an anniversary. Just like you will sit and remember your wedding anniversaries and take notes of the victories, failings, milestones and memories of each year you must do that today. In thirteen years you will sit on your porch under an American flag and ponder September 11, 2001. You will mourn, you will rejoice and you will give God the glory and long for Jesus to restore all things. For the rest of your life, looking back will feel sacred and different each year. Take heart. The good news is that I still don’t know the half of it. You want to change the world. You want to make a difference. You will, just not in the way you think. Feel all of the feelings today but don’t be swept away by them. Stand on the Rock.
I love you, 2002 Self. I’ll be seeing you.