Friday, September 9, 2011

My Entire World Changed

On 9/10/2001 I was in California visiting my fiance at his military base and praying I could stay another day.  I actually was in the process of calling the airline to rebook my flight for the following day when he stopped me and said, "Sweetheart, I know you want to stay, but something tells me you'd better get on that plane."  I drove to the airport instead and got on the plane.  I cried half of the way home because I thought he didn't want me there and was making it all up.

It was our first argument.

On 9/11/2001 I woke up as normal to get ready for work.  I had taken the day off and didn't need to be back yet, but figured I would just go in since I was just going to sit around anyway.  I was still living with my parents and, as usual, the tv was on the morning news when I woke up.  I was heading downstairs to iron a blouse when the first images of the first tower being hit came up on the screen.  Mesmerized I sat there and watched in horror at what we all thought was a horrific accident.  I hollered to my parents that "some idiot flew into the World Trade Center in New York" and got the "Didn't you stay there when you were in New York a few years ago?"  Yeah. I did. 

I stayed there on the couch, something told me not to move.  In complete horror I watched another plane fly onto the screen and then strike the other tower.  The shock and fear on the journalists faces was clear and in a heartbeat, America knew we were at war.  I'd never heard swearing in a newsroom before that day live on air.  I don't think there were other words to express what they were thinking.

I called for my parents to come downstairs immediately and see what I was seeing.  That we were under attack.  That my fiance would likely be going to war because of this.  I tried and tried to call him, but of course all correspondence on military bases was shut down.  I told them to go to work, I'd stay home and call with updates.

The coverage never stopped.  I watched the plane hit the Pentagon.  I watched the smoking footage of the heroes that saved lives in Pennsylvania.  I watched both towers collapse.  I couldn't move.

Eventually they sent my Mom home for the day.  My stepfather and I found old tent poles in the basement and rigged them to make a makeshift flag pole to put up in our yard.  Suddenly a small flag on the house just wasn't enough.  It would never be enough again.

I went out to dinner that night with friends.  All of us were dating someone in the service and no one could find their soldier, sailor, airman, or marine.  We sat there with cell phones on the table watching the footage on tv in a little diner and picking at our food.  It would be months before we would sit there and laugh again like we had the week before.

My cell phone started ringing.  Not my fiance, but calls to come and sing at vigils across the area.  I dropped everything and started making a list of who called, when they needed me.  If my voice could help give people healing and comfort, by God they would hear it.

The next day was a blur.  Blood drives, vigils, and endless people just wanting to do what was right.  I'll never forget 9/12/2001 either.  It was when we all knew America was going to prevail.

My father left to go help in New York.  He was a firefighter and EMS tech.  He just wanted to help.  I stayed home and did the very best I could to help out where I lived.  People were scared. Chicago was an assumed target.  It could just as easily have been us.

Candles flickered and tears ran.  I remember endless vigils and people wanting to do what was right.  I remember wanting, more than anything, to be able to turn off the tv but I just couldn't.  I watched the search and rescue operations.  I watched as we tried to put our country back together.

On 12/31/2001, I was sitting in my bedroom.  I make it a point to always write something at the close of every year and the wishes I have.  That year I wished I could go back to a terrorist being something in a movie on tv and not something that attacked my country.  I wished I didn't know my future husband was going to deploy to a war zone.  I prayed for the strength to stand by him, to live my life as a military wife with courage and ready to help those who needed me.
That determination, born from 9/11 feeds me still today.  The living casualties of the wars that stemmed from that day are my full time job for Family of a Vet.  The actions those strangers took that day has changed my entire life, and given it meaning.  I don't know what I would be doing now if it hadn't been for 9/11.  My entire world changed because of that day....but I do know this.  America is still healing.  She is still rising up from the ashes.  And she will never forget.

                                                       Submitted by: Heather A. Hummert 
    Proud Wife of a Purple Heart OIF Veteran 
FOV Volunteer Coordinator

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