I was in our third floor apartment in Hanau, Germany, playing with my child on the living room floor and only half-watching the Today Show on the Armed Forces Network.
I looked up at the television to see that an airplane had just flown into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. I heard the commentators saying ridiculous things like, 'Did their navigation system go down?'
But I knew.
I knew at that very moment that my country had just experienced a terrorist attack. I could never have imagined that there was more to come.
I called my husband, who was in the motor pool rolling up camo netting, to tell him what had just happened. He was surprised but I don't think he had that same feeling that I did.
While we were talking the second plane hit. I started crying and told my husband, "Our nation is under attack." He said, "No baby, it's gonna be ok." And then the Pentagon. And then the fields of Pennsylvania.
I knew that as a military family, and as Americans, our life was about to change forever.
The security on the base went into high alert. Humvees and soldiers with weapons were positioned all around the perimeter fence of our housing area. Gates were locked down. I have never before experienced anything so surreal.
There is nothing quite like the image of a soldier carrying a M16 standing guard at a fence that is next to a school playground. At that moment, I felt so grateful for having grown up in a country where I didn't know what something like that would feel like. I was filled with determination that our child would not face a future of living in a country where it was normal to see things like that either.
Eight years. It's hard for me to believe that it's been that long. Even though three of those eight years have been some of the longest and loneliest of my life because my husband was away at war--I always keep in mind that many have given up so much more than me. They give me strength. Still, there are times I feel selfish and angry that he has been gone. I wonder if it's all been worth it.
You see, sometimes I find that the memories of that day are dull--sometimes I forget that day and all of the fear and uncertainty that came with it. I forget what it felt like to have armed soldiers standing guard outside of my home to protect me from harm.
Maybe that is a good sign? Maybe that is a symbol of our resiliency as a nation that we should 'recover' and be 'back to normal' in a relatively short period of time? Maybe.
There is danger in forgetting though. Americans need to remember.
The people we lost, the pain, the fear, the anger and the sacrifice. I hope that we not only remember, but also recapture the unity that we felt and that we appreciate and reciprocate the selfless service to our nation and our fellow citizens that so many gave on that day and still give today.
Value the freedom. Cherish it. Remember how important it is to you and how fragile it is. Fight to defend it.