This weekend, Grams didn't have much time to spend reflecting on the tenth anniversary of September 11. I was much too busy holding Her Highness and chasing Our Little Princess upstairs and down. And I wouldn't trade the time spent with them for anything. But I did spend about an hour on Sunday morning watching NBC's coverage of the ceremony at Ground Zero. The roll call of names still moves me. I think of all the lives lost and all the people whose lives were changed forever that day because they lost their mother or father or son or daughter or sister or brother or best friend or a casual acquaintance or because complete strangers were lost. The truth is that every one of us has an impact on so many people every day ... an impact that we're not even aware of. In the course of living every day, we all influence and change each other's lives ... the butterfly effect.
September 11th was a pivotal moment in American history. As Americans, it changed us in ways we never expected. But it also didn't change us. What changed and what didn't change?
On September 11, 2001, Grandad and Grams were beginning our second year as empty nesters. Our children were both attending college in Central Texas. Nick was a sophomore at Schreiner University in Kerrville and Katy was in her fourth year at the University of Texas in San Antonio. Up until that morning I thought they were both mostly safe. I worried about all the normal things that moms of college students worry about, underage drinking, unsafe driving, unprotected sex, and the like. After September 11, I had completely new things to worry about. San Antonio is the home of several major military installations. It seemed like an obvious target for future attacks. Kerrville is a quiet little town in the hill country, seemingly safe from terrorists or military action. The threat there was completely different. My son and his friends were suddenly interested in joining the military so they could go get "whoever did this." Believe me, we had a very blunt conversation about how different real war is from video game war. Ultimately, he stayed in school and got his engineering degree without joining the military. Don't get me wrong, I would certainly have supported his decision to join the military, but not under those circumstances and not in the fervor of youthful enthusiasm he was caught up in at the time.
We live in the suburbs of Corpus Christi. It's not unusual for us to hear planes overhead on a landing approach to Corpus Christi International Airport. It's not a big airport and there are not a lot of planes. We also often hear the buzz of small planes as they crop dust the fields surrounding our neighborhood. Both plane sounds are so commonplace that we usually don't even notice them most of the time. After September 11, 2001, the silence was deafening. For three days there were absolutely no flight sounds around our neighborhood. When the flights resumed, sometime on Friday, September 14, we again began to hear the sound of planes overhead. But now it was different! We stopped and listened to every plane that buzzed by. To this day, anytime a plane sounds a little different, whether it's a little louder or a little lower, my heart skips a beat and the thought of what could be happening goes through my mind. I don't think that doubt will ever go away. I can't unlearn what I learned on September 11, 2001.
A couple of months later, on our first flight in the post-September 11 era, we flew to Las Vegas to attend my nephew's wedding. It was our daughter's very first airplane flight. We flew out of San Antonio accompanied by my sister Bylinda and her husband. It was extremely disconcerting to see the presence of armed military in the airports. There were five in our party and two of us got selected for the newly implement random searches before boarding the plane. Katy was among those chosen, but she just took it in stride. It was her first flight and maybe she just didn't know any different. I must admit that it still makes me extremely nervous. Every time I get on a plane, I should probably be selected for search based on my extreme nervousness. Sometimes I think maybe I have something to hide that even I don't know about.
So many things have changed as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11. It was a landmark event in American history, similar in nature to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy. Ask anyone where they were that day and how they heard the news and they can tell you exactly. It was a notable day, not only because so many innocent lives were lost but also because another generation of Americans lost their naivete that day. September 11 changed us to the core. We became more suspicious of people who don't look like us, we became more alert in our every day lives, and patriotism and flag-waving became more commonplace and more accepted.
Less than a month later, I remember standing in my driveway one evening and talking with my neighbors about the military action that had just been launched in Afghanistan. By then we knew what Al-Quaeda was and we knew who Osama bin Laden was. What we didn't know, although many of us suspected, was how widespread and lengthy the military action would be and how it would grow to include Iraq and Saddam Hussein. We also didn't know how many more American lives would be lost.