"What the fuck?"
Those were the words uttered out of my slightly sleepy mouth as I watched the second plane hit the second tower, a few moments before I was sleep as my alarm wasn't set to go off for another half hour. The reason I was up was because my phone rang at, what was for me, an ungodly hour. On the line was my mother, who, after I said hello, said, "Sean, are you alright?" Of course I was alright. Hell, I was sound asleep feeling good about being in my bed and kind of annoyed that I was no longer asleep. She asked had I seen the news, which I had not, and she said turn on the TV "IT'S" on every channel. Confused, I turned it on and, well, you know what I said next. It was just after 6 AM when I got that call and I'll never forget it. At the time I was an active duty Air Force SSgt assigned to the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron at Ft Lewis Army Installation in Washington State. After my mother called, my supervisor called and the words were something of this:"The shit has hit the fan. Everyone is to report in immediately. We may be going to war." That is my 9/11 memory.
Those few minutes of two phone calls. The rest I don't remember because, to be frank, I, like the rest of my unit, went into work mode and prepped to do the job we were trained to do... Kill our enemy! Actually, full disclosure, I was a supply guy and the likelihood of me killing anyone was pretty slim but still possible. I never did personally have to kill anyone in combat. My unit, on the other hand, had their fair share of battles and losses. It's the price of war. It's what we signed up to do. It is what those planes that hit those buildings that bloodied the noses of we Americans did in an instant... provoked a nation to war. And we were ready to do it!
You ever look down the bang end of a weapon? The picture you see here is of me in 2011 in Afghanistan with my M4 all kitted out. I had the bullets, the training, the desire and the skills to use this weapon and the one on my hip (9mm) if need be. I even had the skills to use my hands if need be, but this picture was taken just because I thought it was cool. I was lucky that way. My weapons were "break in case of emergency" while many of my brothers and sisters were using them as "last line of defense" while fighting for their lives. It's mind-boggling to see this picture and understand the guy behind the gun is ready to die for what he believes in, or at the very least, so the men and women he is deployed with get to go home. We were ready! We were AMERICANS! We were not going to forget what "THEY" did to us. We were going to show them a thing or two.
In 2001, that is what we said and we thought. We were wronged. We did nothing to deserve this level of cowardice especially on civilian targets. I mean, if you want to fight, bring it to us military folks, we are more than eager to give you an ass whipping. That is what this country was literally built on: fighting. We are eager to fight. We fight anyone and everyone, hell, even ourselves. Then "They" went and attacked civilians, women and children and people all walks of life. And with that we were ready to do the damage and do the deed and kill. kill. KILL. All for the ideals that we preach for a nation. No, not just a nation, but the world. Damn, I'm getting hyped up just thinking about the feeling I had on Sept. 11, 2001. Eager to fight. Eager to defend our country. Eager to prove that I, a black man from South Central Los Angeles, knows that the freedoms of my country is more than the city I lived in, the color of my skin, the orientation of sexual preferences, and my religion. We won't forget. We will make them pay. We will carry on, because, "That's what Americans do!"
And we flew our flags. We raised them high in the sky. We won't forget. We painted them on our vehicles. We won't forget. We hung them from poles in our yards and displayed them year around. We won't forget. We put them on our shirts, hats, pants, and even underwear. We won't forget. We made documentaries of the fallen, the heroes that fought back and brought a plane down, the hero first responders who ran into those devastated buildings trying to save "just one more person," and of the enemy. We won't forget. When our anger starts to wane by June or July of a year, we will run it all back to keep the pace until Sept. 11 would roll around again. We won't forget. We would refuel our hate/anger/resolve with the images, the videos, the sounds and the testimonies of all those affected by this tragedy. We won't forget. We fly that flag proudly and we proclaimed we are UNITED STATES for one and for all. We won't forget. And that is how it goes each and every year for the past 18 years. We won't forget.
I got to admit just writing all that has me ready to sign up again to fight for the freedoms of the world. To defend the weak and destroy tyranny at its core. To make a world where, as Dr. King dreamed of, "all men are created equal." I'm ready because I have not forgotten what it was like that day. I haven't forgotten my mom's voice that morning. I haven't forgotten the image in my eye of a plane crashing into a building with that beautiful bright blue sky behind it with the only color being the black smoke pulsing out into the world like an old smoke signal. I'm ready to don the gear, strap on the weapons, kiss my wife, hug my son, say bye to my friends, and board a plane to fight the good fight against an enemy who would attack innocent women and children. Why? Because, I won't forget.
And that is what we say every year for 18 years. We won't forget. It reminds me of another time when the "evil guys" attacked us and dragged us into a war that we would not forget. Of course, I am talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Remember how we weren't going to "forget"? Maybe I should take a step back and take another look at this "not forgetting" thing. I'm brought back to the blog I wrote about Pearl Harbor and Nagasaki, Japan called Lessons of Two Memorials and what both those places taught me about forgetting. Damn it. Now, I am thinking. Now, I am thinking about the eagerness to fight. The willingness to put my life on the line to prove that we Americans will not be "fucked with" at all. But that isn't what I am thinking at all. I'm thinking about two men who died after Sept. 11, 2011. I'm thinking about