Friday, September 11, 2009

An Easy Date to Remember

I've never understood how some people have trouble remembering dates for major events in their life. If it was life-changing, if it was important, if it evokes a pleasant memory, one would think that would be an easy date to hold on to, to attach to whatever memory you keep.

That said, some dates are easier to remember than others.

Today is the third anniversary of me starting this little ol' blog. I started it because it the 2006 Cardinals were turning into the 1964 Phillies, and I wanted to comment, but also because I'd long talked about doing a blog, and my wife finally said 'put up or shut up'. Be careful what you wish for, honey.

It's also the eighth anniversary of this.

Photo downloaded from Fox News

Which makes it easy to remember for me.

When I was a kid, my parents used to talk about how they remembered where they were the day Kennedy was shot, and what a reality-altering event that was for their generation. I never quite understood that sentiment until 9/11/01.

I don't remember every detail of that day, but I do remember where I was and what I was doing - underway on USS HELENA (SSN-725), in the middle of a Tactical Readiness Evaluation.

SSN-725 returning from a successful deployment (undated)

You probably remember waking up that morning and staring, transfixed, at the television set while the events in New York/DC/PA unfolded. Now imagine being more than 12 miles off the coast, with no media connectivity, getting information sporadically. We new something was amiss when we came up to talk with folks ashore in preparation for the morning's exercise and there was no one on the other end of the circuit. This was followed, in the next few hours, by our exercise being cancelled and the DEFCON being raised to the highest level anyone of us (including the Captain and Commodore of our squadron, who was on board) had ever seen.

Tension abounded. What the hell had happened?

Peacemeal reporting went like this: A Cessna crashed into the World Trade Center. Then we were told it was a learjet. Then, a passenger plane and both towers were down. This was the raw data coming straight out of the radio room to control, where I was.

Once the full impact of the attack was realized on board, there wasn't a lot of anger. But there was a lot of excitement. Why? Because based on our operational condition, we expected to be one of the first boats sent West to respond. Which meant we could do something about those attacks, bring the fight to the people who had attacked the US and killed so many. Those '9-11 LETS ROLL' stickers/shirts you might remember coming out right after the attacks? That's how we felt. The Squadron Torpedoman stopped me in Middle Level and said "Two words: Parking. Lot." Well, that would have been a bit of an overresponse, but it succinctly captured the mood. Let's Roll.

Flags are at half-mast today to remember the victims of the attack. For me, it is another reminder of how the world has changed since that day, and how many of my comrades in arms have given their lives defending this country these past eight years, so there isn't a repeat of 9/11/01. Remember all of them today.

And if you see a man/woman in uniform today, they may appear to be walking a little taller, their jaw set, moving with more purpose than usual. Because we remember too. We may have joined before 9/11, but the task put before us since that morning is the reason we serve, and the reason we fight.

We'll return to the Cardinals tomorrow.

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