Stunned disbelief. How else can it be described? We all sat around the TV just a bit numb trying to absorb each of the events as they unfolded five years ago when terrorists struck our country with a true sucker punch of historic proportions. At the time, however, we really were no longer sure what normal meant to our lives…everything was in a state of flux.
In a few short moments of time we saw our world turned upside-down by a bunch of murderers who cowardly inflicted their carnage on innocent people who were minding their own business trying to live their lives. The action angered us…it made us more patriotic…it brought us closer to our church…it opened our eyes to being more vigilant wherever we traveled…and it made us realize the world—our world—will never be quite the same again.
On that fateful morning I had just gotten off from working a 24–hour ambulance shift and was going to my second job as a paralegal. There at the law office I settled in to begin my daily duties when a colleague without Internet access popped in and asked if I would check out the news. They had heard something big was going on out in New York. I attempted to log on to many of the major news web sites and they were jammed. In fact, it was an eery feeling knowing that something in the world was happening and without access to credible news sources I was left mostly in the dark.
Eventually I accessed a news site that described a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. A spectacular crash…caught on film. I decided to leave the office and head back to the ambulance station where I could watch TV and better hear the news reports. I no more than started watching when I witnessed a second plane hit another tower…and then reports came in from Washington D.C. that an explosion had occurred at the Pentagon. Reports started coming in fast and furious that other planes were missing and that a catastrophic event was unfolding before our eyes the likes of which hadn’t occurred since perhaps Pearl Harbor back in 1941.
I continued to watch the sickening news for several hours until I finally decided to go home. You know, when things are not right in the world there’s just something inviting and very comforting about being home. Besides, business and life in general for most people came to a screeching halt as we all “waited for the other shoe to drop,” so to speak. Overnight gas prices sky-rocketed through the roof as gouging occurred by some unscrupulous folks thanks to the general restlessness and uneasy feeling we all felt about the suddenly unpredictable future.
As a medic, at the time, I also wasn’t sure when I might be called into action for some local emergency. It could happen…I knew that because we had all trained for some unusual mass casualty event such as this…a local event might possibly involve me. Albeit, nobody could ever have anticipated the magnitude quite like disaster preparations are made today.
Eventually that Tuesday afternoon I made it home to be with family. I also went home to be near my guns. Silly as it may sound…when the world turns unpredictable and frightening there is some degree of comfort felt by knowing I’m close to my guns. Maybe it was a false sense of security for a 9/11 world, I’ll admit that. But being near my guns in an unpredictable world where nothing could now be taken for granted gave me a small sense of relief.
I remember arriving home that afternoon opening the gun safe and just looking at all the guns I owned. In a sense, they were my adult version of a child’s security blanket. Oh how naked and helpless I would have felt not to own those guns at that moment in my life.
During the days and weeks that followed we all tried to put some semblance of order into our suddenly chaotic lives. Things we could never have imagined before the attacks were now part of our everyday world. Restrictions, heightened security alerts, the fear of future attacks became part of our daily routine…and we had no choice but to accept it.
Our nation’s police officers, firefighters (and to a lesser extent ambulance personnel—which is sort of a bone of contention for me) became public service heroes and the nation rallied behind them. Eventually our troops began preparing for war as patriotism and military enthusiasm surged and the thought of war was viewed by most folks as a national necessity.
Oh, have times changed. Our nation’s public servants are still viewed as everyday heroes but I sense the public passion and support has waned slightly. And what about the war on terror? Five years later our resolve is wearing thin and those with a weak stomach for combat now think the only logical solution is to pick-up our gear and bring the troops all home. I certainly don’t profess to know the right answer…but I must trust that our nation’s leaders with much more information than I have are capable of making the right choices.
Today, as I reflect back on 9/11/2001, I certainly pause to remember all those people who have been victims during the past five years both to terror and to the subsequent war on terror. I also remember driving my truck down main street in town with all the flags waving and the national anthem being played on most radio stations along with a moment of silence. This occurred in the days after 9/11. It was moving. It strengthened my sense of patriotism and belief that we truly live on the greatest country on this earth no matter what happens to us.
No longer do I take any of my freedoms and privileges for granted. I also take every opportunity to tell those in uniform that I appreciate their service to our country. They need to hear it…and after all we’ve been through it would be downright rude not to offer it to these courageous individuals who make the sacrifices necessary to keep our country great.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.