11 September 2009

09/11/2001

"No arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women" --President Ronald Reagan--

Eight years ago I was stationed at Camp Casey South Korea. It was around 1900 (that's 7pm for you civilian types). I was doing my usual routine: Shining boots, doing laundry, and just generally preparing for the next day. Meanwhile in the United States, an event that would forever change my life took place. It was a bright autumn day stateside. Beautiful. The sun was already going down in Korea. It was just another dreary day in the Army for me. I remember the moment the first plane hit the tower. I was in my barracks room. I heard someone yell down the hall "Holy shit turn on the TV!"I opened the door and looked down the hall. The people were poking their heads out the door to see what the commotion was."A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!" someone screamed.I ran over to my TV and turned it to the news. I got to it just in time to see the second plane hit the other tower. I remember that feeling. I was confused at first. I remember thinking that one plane could have been an accident. But the moment I watched the second plane hit I realized that these were coordinated attacks. "It can't be real" I thought. It was like someone was standing on my chest. Adrenaline rushed and a great knot welled up in my stomach. I knew that the whole world changed in that instant. I knew that this would invariably change my life in particular. I ran down the hall to the CQ desk a few minutes later. We got the alert roster out. In Korea we are on call at all times. It is essentially a warzone because the North and South Koreans are still technically at war. We accounted for everyone in the unit and then went back to watching the historic events unfold on TV.It was constantly on our minds in the hours and days that followed. We were all itching to go over and make the thugs who attacked us pay. As it were, I would not get my chance for almost two years. Everything changed for us. There were armed patrols and guards at checkpoints everywhere. I remember we could not leave the barracks unless we were in uniform. We could not leave the post unless we had official business to attend to, and only if we were armed and in a group. Korea had its share of criminal elements. North Korean agents were known to execute operations in South Korea. Soldiers had been attacked and even abducted in the past, but it was usually attributed to criminals. Now things were more serious. There were no more light-hearted jokes. There were no more nights in the ville drinking soju.When it became clear that the attackers were Islamofacsist terrorists from the Middle East, eventually some of our heightened security measures relaxed. One of my best friends in Korea was from New York City. He lost friends that day. The terrorists underestimated America. The intent of the attack was to bring us down. They wanted to collapse our economic and political system. They wanted to test our will. The attack failed to achieve its primary objectives. They underestimated the American people. At least for a little while, 9-11 united America. Eventually people forgot what that day felt like. It became too distant. People became too wrapped up in their own lives or in partisan games. Now we have many people trying to drain all meaning from 9-11. We are eliminating the factors that once brought people together and forgetting the emotional upheaval that defined it. We cannot allow people to forget what happened eight years ago today. We cannot condemn our children to suffer the consequences of ignoring history. Hold this day sacred and forget what divides us. Let's hold on to what unites us.

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