A lot can change in 12 years...

Posted September 17, 2013

By: Reda Hicks

Hicks joins 5 other mil-bloggers who, over the next few months, will share their deployment-related stories. You can catch up on all their blog posts on the Blue Star Families Blog and don’t forget to take a look at BSF’s free e-book “Everyone Serves: A Handbook for Family and Friends of Service Members During Pre-Deployment, Deployment and Reintegration.”

“In September of 2001, I was a college kid of 20, just starting my senior year at the University of Texas. I was living in a small apartment with three other girls I barely saw because we were all full-time students with jobs. It was a bustling existence, to say the least. But it was an exciting time, sitting right on the edge of adulthood and all of life’s possibilities, while eking out the last bits of fun that college had to offer.

September 11 was a Tuesday. I woke up early, as I did every Tuesday, to make a morning class across campus. I rolled out of my bed and hopped on the computer, just for a second, to see if any friends had AIM’d me overnight (yep, technology has come a long way in twelve years, too). My friend Richard, who was going to college outside of Memphis, had left me a joke the night before. It was super corny, and I don’t remember exactly what I replied, but I know it was snarky. His response was disconcerting:

“…”

“You haven’t seen the news this morning, have you?”

I quickly popped on the television (because we didn’t really stream news back then), and then I saw it: a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. We didn’t know what was happening. Had something gone terribly wrong with the airplane’s computer systems? Did something happen to the pilot?

Terrorism is not something that ran through my mind as I sat glued to the television that morning. It had never occurred to me that terrorism would come here. I bet many of us could say the same thing.

Then, I watched with the rest of the country as the second plane hit the second tower. Then I knew it could not be a coincidence. Then I knew I was watching evil happen. And I felt something shift uneasily inside of me as I thought:

If it can happen in New York, it can happen anywhere.

It was like that thought was a chip in my internal windshield. As I watched the towers fall, that chip began to spider in a hundred different directions at once. I lost my breath for a moment. By that point my roommates were watching with me, and we were all holding our breath. Like all of the oxygen had gone out of the room. And as the stories began to roll in of all the people in those towers, the heroes lost trying to save them, the cracks grew more pronounced until I felt like any moment I was going to cave in.

Most teachers cancelled school that day, but I had a philosophy professor who was die-hard about attendance and refused to cancel my 7pm class (the next day, the school gave him no choice). As I trudged across the campus, all I heard was nothing. Eery, complete, total silence on one of the largest university campuses in the country. And through the silence came one clear, pronounced thought:

Things will never be the same.

Now, twelve years later, I’m an Army wife with a husband serving in Afghanistan, and a three-year-old who doesn’t understand why that has to be so. Some days, I don’t even understand why that has to be so. Some days, the fatigue of more than a decade of war makes me forget all about how I felt that morning, and in the horrible days that followed.

Especially when we are missing Jake.

Especially when I’m terrified by the word Syria.

Especially when I’m talking to milspouse friends feeling the same heartache, facing the same questions from their children.

Especially when I think of the families facing even deeper heartaches because their loved ones have become latent casualties of that awful day.

Especially when I feel like those sacrifices are taken for granted.

Lately, there have been a lot of especially’s. A lot. But they are almost always followed by this nagging guilty feeling that I’m not being totally honest with myself. I may not understand what our country’s leaders are thinking, or why these courses of action are being chosen, but there’s one thing I do know: I know why Jake is there.

Jake is there because he is a soldier. He believes this country, this way of life, is worth preserving and protecting. This nation lost a piece of its innocence in New York twelve years ago, one that we will never get back. Our children are inheriting from us a cracked windshield. But Jake, and the thousands of other men and women just like him, fight to ensure that the rest of it remains intact for our children.

Evil will not spider and shatter them. Not if our protectors can help it. They, our children, are worth the sacrifice.

So today, I’m reminding myself what my husband has told me all along–America is worth preserving and protecting because of what it is: families.

I’m remembering the people in the planes and the towers, and the families they represent.

I’m remembering the people that have sacrificed life and limb for us, and the families they represent.

I’m remembering the people continuing to fight for us, and the families they represent.

I’m remembering, and I’m praying for peace, hope, and healing for the entire American family.”

Reda Hicks is a partner in a Houston, Texas-based litigation boutique, and serves as Managing Editor for the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN), overseeing, among other things, the development and production of MSJDN’s Bars and Stripes news journal. She is also MSJDN’s Governance Director, and is a member of its Government Relations Committee. Reda is the proud wife of an Army helicopter pilot named Jake, and mother to a beautiful (and rambunctious) three-year-old boy named Howie. In addition to writing for MSJDN and her Hickshiking blog, Reda is a regular contributor to legal scholarship on environmental law and natural resources issues.