I didn’t get to watch this speech until much later in the night. I say “night” because that’s what it was in Seoul, Korea where I was stationed at the time. I had been in the U.S. Army since April of 2000, and in Korea since early November of that year. On that evening, Tuesday, September 11th of 2001, I was just finishing up ironing my uniforms and getting my PT clothes set out for the next day.
At about 11:50 P.M. (9:50 A.M. on the eastern seaboard), Jared Hopkins, who was pulling Charge of Quarters duty came and knocked on the door to my room. When I answered the door, he told me that there was a 100% telephonic recall in force, and that everyone had to come back to post. I asked Hopkins what was up, and it was then that he informed me that “someone flew planes into the towers in New York and the Pentagon. We’re under attack, man! Turn on your tv!”
I immediately turned on CNN. What was unfolding in front of my eyes looked more like a new Bruce Willis “Die Hard” movie than actual news at first, but then the sickening reality of it all started to sink in. I watched as the towers fell, and the Pentagon burned. I remember thinking that our peace-time mission was now over, and that the whole world had changed on us. I spent the next three hours with one of my closest friends in the barracks, Berlynne Copeland, watching the CNN coverage from NY and DC. To this day, I am grateful for her company and friendship during that darkest of times.
The following day was a somber one. No work got done in our office, we all just sat around and talked about what had happened, who we thought might have done it, and how our Army lives would be affected. The rest of the week was filled with formations, memorials, security upgrades and a lot of retrospection.
My wife later recounted to me that it was 6:02 A.M. in California when the second plane hit 2 WTC, and that she, my father-in-law and our two boys were all watching CNN when the plane hit. Later that morning, the school principal called her and the kids in, feeling that both she and our kids needed to be around friends at that time. (My wife was volunteering as a teacher’s aid while I was overseas.)
That fateful day, almost 3,000 people lost their lives in these senselessly violent attacks. The mastermind behind these planned attacks, Usama Bin Laden spent almost 10 years on the run in the Middle East before being killed by members of our SEAL teams earlier this year. Also on that day a number of children were born across the country, little rays of hope in the midst of incredible tragedy. One of them was Christina-Taylor Green of Tucson, Arizona.
Christina was featured in the book “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11“. By all accounts she was a bright, energetic and thoughtful little girl. She also grew to have an interest in our government and the Democratic process. On the morning of January 8th of this year, Christina attended a “Congress on Your Corner” rally being held by Tucson, AZ congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As most of you already know, she never made it home. In another senseless act of violence, Christina was taken from our midst when a gunman opened fire on the crowd.
As we pause this Sunday to remember the victims of 9-11, I ask that we also remember Christina. Remember that even in the middle of despair, there is hope. I think she would have liked that.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant en pace, in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
(“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”) From the Liturgy of the Hours.