Ten years ago, I was in my senior year of college. I was a Resident Assistant to 40 men and women in the residence halls. I enjoyed life, I was young, naive, and thought I had it all figured out.
At about 8:45, my alarm went off. I had rounds the night before, so was up late hanging out with my residents, and trying to complete a paper I had forgotten about. My alarm went off. It was usually Bob & Tom, because I always jumped up to turn it off, as I can't stand their laughs in the morning. And now what?!? They are JOKING about planes and terrorism?
I woke up from my sleepiness and annoyance for how they actually stooped this low for a tasteless joke. I turned off the alarm, and turned on the television. Every channel, again and again and again, video of an airplane flying in to a building, and then, another hit. I still remember the newscaster scream when the second hit...live. And then, they fell....
It was a haze. Disbelief. Who could do this? Why would someone do this? It had to be an accident? What about my brother in the Navy? What about my resident's husband who is in the Army? She is now so close to me? What am I going to tell the students? WHAT IS MY MOTHER GOING TO TELL MY 19 MONTH OLD BROTHER?
The campus was silent. There were tears, many, many tears. No one understood what was happening. Candlelight vigil? We could find those everywhere. There were no loud stereos, unless it played "The Star Spangled Banner" or "America the Beautiful". Other than that, there was silence, and windows draped in American Flags. All across campus, our flag waved, or draped, or was carried.
My National Guard residents deployed within the week. We lost them as our fellow college students and peers to those holding our country together in the very beginning of this war in a week.
The world will never be the same. THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME.
Fast forward eight and a half years later. One of my colleagues and very close friend now has informed me that she personally lost on 9/11. Her sister worked in one of the towers. She told me about her troubles and her fears, and how she has learned to cope, but that it never gets better, just easier to deal with the pain. This is not my story to tell. My friend informed me several times that she was so proud and thankful that my husband is fighting for our country, for our freedoms. She never met him, as I met her just after he deployed. I am so thankful for this friendship.
Last year, on 9/11, I honestly don't even remember what I was doing, other than worrying about my friend. She wanted to be alone, and her husband was out of town. I believe we may have talked about the issue, but I didn't know what to say, other than to be there for her.
Just ten days later, I had a better understanding of how she felt. At 9:30 in the morning, I hear a dreadful, unexpected knock at the door, and an unknown car parked outside my house. I immediately started screaming "No! No! No! No! NO!!!" April came out, wondering what was wrong, but immediately knew when she saw my face. I am so thankful she was there. I can't go in to what more happened that day. I remember it very, very, very vividly. I remember when my friend who was most thankful for Matt's service came to my home, and the notification officers were still there. I could not look at her, talk to her. I was lost in my own mind. She knew why I was going through what I was going through, and I couldn't talk to her. I couldn't form words. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare that I had had several times before that day. I just couldn't wake up this time...
Ten years ago, the ball started rolling for my life as I know it now, as we know it now. Ten years ago, someone, or some group, decided that they wanted to inflict harm on our country, on our people, on our way of being. Ten years ago, we united, we showed our strength, our resilience, and most importantly, our patriotism- Together.
Today, we remember. Today, we reflect, and today, we have middle schoolers who know nothing other than war. My brother, now 11, was just 19 months ten years ago. All of my nieces and nephews have known a world only with war. They have never known Peace.
It makes me wonder, with Gabriel, as well as the other children in my life, and in our country, and in our world, will they ever know Peace? Will they ever be able to turn on the news without the horror of war? Without the hatred that comes along with it? Without the tragedies that occur as a result? War is so far reaching. As I have discussed before, it is not just the military personnel that feel this. It is the families, the friends, the communities, and ALL of us who ever immerse ourselves in an environment with other individuals.
Today, I dedicated Gabriel to a Life with Jesus Christ, where he will know Him as our Savior. As much as my faith was interrupted and questioned in the last 355 days, it has been strengthened and confirmed ten times. I know I want my son to know our Lord, and I know I want my son to know that Jesus died for our sins, so that we may have Eternal Life.
During the sermon, the amazing Pastor who has been an incredible help in my journey, possibly some of the hardest parts of my journey, gave a sermon regarding Holy Response to a Divided and Violent World. His dedication of Gabriel, with an explanation of our situation, tied in beautifully to today's sermon, although it was just chance that Gabriel's dedication was today.
He talked about the violence that has errupted and continued the last ten years. He talked about our responses, first with patriotism, then with anger. He gave us GUIDANCE on how to move forward in this situation. He explained that we are no better than Osama Bin Laden, because, ultimately, we are sinners also. He said that it takes only one sin to keep us out of Heaven, as we are no longer perfect. Luckily, Christ died to forgive our sins, and for us to have Eternal Life in Heaven. He said that Bin Laden needed to find Christ to be saved.
He explained that the Bible says that we should not fight evil with evil. We should not rejoice in the pain of others.
I am so happy he said that. When we killed Bin Laden, I cried. I was in the airport, just coming off the gate and saw it on the television as I walked past, well, walked, saw and froze. I could not get out fast enough. People around me are cheering. I felt like screaming, because I was paralyzed with emotion. I am glad that we caught him. I am glad that we were able to find the man behind the horrendous pain that he has caused our country, the uncountable losses he has delivered to our people, and the unrest that he has forever placed in to this world. I am not glad that a man is dead. A man with a family. I felt guilty I felt this way. I felt guilty that, because of the actions this man started, my HUSBAND is DEAD! Why don't I have extreme hatred? Why do I want to cry instead of cheer? Crying to me now feels like mourning. Am I mourning Bin Laden? The most hated man alive?
I now understand it. I have an understanding of what grief feels like, and I have an actual empathy that can no longer be taken from me. I understand now. My mom and dad always taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. Now, God is telling me that you do not fight evil with evil, and you don't rejoice in the pain of others.
What we did, what the SEALS did, was not evil. It is what we believe as a hurt and scorned nation to be right and just, and deserved. But, today, I learned why I felt so differently than "everyone" else. Today, I was given the ability to understand- FULLY- that sin exists, and then understand the magnitude of the fact that Jesus died to forgive our sins. So that we may act in this world with the best of intentions, but they may not always be as God wishes. With the acceptance of the gifts of Grace, Forgiveness and Jesus Christ, our sins, no matter how large, are forgiven.
My husband did not die in vain. He died for a country he loved. He died for family and friends that he loved, so that we will never have our freedoms taken away, including our freedom to love our Lord. He died as a believer in Christ, and he is in Heaven, clean and free. My husband, I know, has so much joy that I have finally learned the Truth, and that someday, I will join him. I am lucky enough to know my Savior, and share this with my son, so that he may grow and understand, and share.
The American Soldier dies for Freedom. Jesus died for Forgiveness. Without one, you cannot have the other.