September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:I was attending a conference in a suburb of Maryland just outside DC sponsored by the Office of Personnel Management. I recall traveling to DC the preceeding weekend and visiting my brother-in-law and then driving to the hotel Sunday evening as the conference began on Monday the 10th. I attended the conference all day Monday and went to dinner Monday evening with a colleague I had not realized was also attending the conference. Having worked at the Pentagon for three years, 92 thru 95, I was contemplating skipping the morning session on the 11th and taking the Metro to the Pentagon and renew some old acquaintances. I decided to attend one of the morning sessions and then make my way to the Pentagon later on. Before those plans could come to fruition, CNN was being broadcast on the large screen at the front of the auditorium where the conference attendees had previously been listening to briefings. It was surreal to say the least. As events unfolded, the conference was eventually cancelled. I recall sitting in the auditorium and my colleague coming up to sit next to me. She asked me what I was going to do. I had a rental car and she didn't. My first thoughts, considering what appeared to be near panic in DC, was to drive to Maryland and stay with my brother-in-law. However, after an hour or so, we decided to "hijack" the rental car and drive back to Florida.

Memory:As we made our way out of the DC area driving south through Virginia, I could not believe how beautiful the day was. There was not a cloud in the sky; crystal blue and I wasn't sure I'd seen a more beautiful day. The country side was magnificent and so picturesque. I contrasted those observations with what I knew was unfolding in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. It was way too overwhelming. And, then my thoughts turned to my oldest son who was a Lt. in the 101st Airborne. I sensed he was going somewhere. And, I thought my world was quickly collapsing. But, how could that all be true on such a beautiful day?

Affects:My oldest son soon departed for Afghanistan for six months and received the bronze star for his performance in Operation Anaconda. The celebration and thankfulness of his return was soon muted by the understanding he would be headed to Iraq. He accompanied the 101st up country, spending time in Baghdad and other parts unknown. He is now out of the Army, has a great job in Atlanta and is doing fine. My wife and I aged many years in what seemed like a very long two years. Americans are a resilient people. We are proving we can make great sacrifices. We are also understanding that there is a cost to this precious freedom we enjoy. We should hold this gift closely, nurture it and never forget the price paid by Americans today and in the past. I believe we are a better people and a better country, forged from the events and aftermath of 9/11.


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