I was at home when the rumbling and shaking started. As it grew louder and stronger, my thoughts leapt from one assumption to the next.
“Wow, how big is that dump truck? (One happened to be passing our house just then) … Can’t be an earthquake. Not here … Was there an explosion? It’s almost September … Could it be happening again?”
The sounds and sensations were over within seconds, and we quickly learned the cause was after all a 5.8 earthquake, not a terrorist attack.
There was a time – though I can scarcely remember it – when that possibility wouldn’t have crossed my mind. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it’s never far from it.
I can’t forget that we are not beyond the reach of terrorism and violence, though ten years have passed.
The newspaper the day after the quake showed me I was not alone. A front-page story said many New York and Washington D.C. residents thought immediately of a manmade disaster when their floors, walls and ceilings began to tremble. Some had been close enough to hear and see the events of 9/11. They have not forgotten.
In the military we don’t all have first-hand experience of the death toll and destruction of that day, but the consequences live in our neighborhood. That degree of terrorism hasn’t touched U.S. soil in ten years. The wars we fight are on the other side of the world, but they affect military families every day.
Another recent headline said after ten years, reminders of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq come in “small doses.”
As another military spouse observed, this is true “only to the 99%,” referring to the majority of Americans not in military service.
“For us it’s every day, every minute,” she said.
This week there will be remembrance events at military installations around the world. In the U.S., people will gather at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and the new Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.
Americans will meet in town halls and places of worship to remember by reading the names of those who were lost or by observing moments of silence.
I’ve been thinking for some time about how I would commemorate this milestone. A simple answer presented itself.
A few weeks ago, a friend called me. Her husband had served with many of the thirty U.S. military members killed when a Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Taliban last month.
She and her husband planned to attend the burial service for twelve of their friends at Arlington National Cemetery. They needed a babysitter that day for their two little ones. My daughter and I gladly volunteered.
I may take part in formal remembrances too, but there are few better ways to honor the dead than to care for the living. Babysitting is no huge favor, certainly nothing unusual. Most military spouses do this – and so much more – for fellow military families all the time. It’s possible to honor large sacrifices even in small ways.
We don’t need an earthquake to remind us of the day that changed the course of our country and our lives as military families. Nor do we wait for the September page on our calendar to recognize and honor the service of our loved ones in uniform.
We can’t right the wrongs done on one tragic day or reduce the painful price of ten years of war, but we can help each other in small ways and so we do.
No words or actions of mine can relieve the sorrow of my friends after the loss of their close friends and fellow warriors. But I can read books, give piggy-back rides and make macaroni and cheese for their children, and so I do.
It’s one small way to honor heroes, to serve the living, to remember the day the earth moved and our world changed, Sept. 11, 2001.
Reader's remembrances from that day will be in next week's Spouse Calls. They are also available on the Spouse Calls Facebook group.
Additionally, Stars and Stripes is running a special section for the tenth anniversary of Sept 11, called "Why You Fight."