I hadn't planned to write today.
To be completely honest, my focus was on something personal over these last 18 hours or so and not on the significance of this day. For our family personally today was a "we plan, God laughs" or even a "Why, God?! Why?" kind-of-day and it took up nearly all of my energy.
I meant to wear my cross pin with an American flag today but I forgot. My mind was busy thinking of other things as I headed out the door with two kids and three bags in tow, five minutes late to church for practice.
I meant to light a candle at 9:11. I meant to set an alarm on my phone to remember. But I forgot to and the time passed before I realized.
I meant to watch the coverage today but I was distracted by the thoughts in my own mind over a situation that had nothing to do with the 11th of September.
When I put the boys down to sleep and sat on the couch to fold the laundry I had just pulled from the dryer, I checked my DVR and remembered that I had set a particular program commemorating this day to record previously. It was the History Channel's 102 Minutes that Changed America.
With most of the lights off in our home, with our children asleep, with my husband gone, I sat and I watched and I cried and I whimpered and I shook. Because for as much as I remember that day (and I remember that day) it wasn't until watching the unbelievable coverage of this program that I realized how different it was to experience 9/11 as a child than to 'experience' it now as an adult, as an Army wife, and as a mother.
It was an entirely different understanding. It wasn't until tonight that I truly understood what my mother must have felt on that day - waiting to hear her son's voice, knowing that he could have been there, not knowing where he was. It wasn't until tonight that I realized how much strength and grace must have been poured into her on that day to not let us feel the terror that I felt watching the footage.
It was not until tonight - as I looked at these attacks from the perspective of a spouse - that I could feel the heartbreak of these spouses being interviewed whose loved ones were on the planes, or in the towers, or in the Pentagon. It wasn't until tonight that my heart broke with them rather than just for them.
It wasn't until tonight that I could imagine knowing that you would never see your children again.
When I watched those towers fall I was sixteen years old. My body literally crumbled to the ground in absolute despair. I feared for the safety of my brother in New York. But in no way could I understand things then the way I do now.
It was like living through it for the first time - seeing the images, watching the videos, hearing the screams. It was so very different to watch these tragedies at this point in my life - a very different point - than at that one.
What touched me the most during this entire program was the footage of the firemen. The hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of men suited up, walking forward, holding their oxygen tanks, their folded hoses, helmets on their heads, just walking towards the blackness. I wonder what they must have thought entering those towers. I cannot fathom what thoughts must have been racing through their minds. I am extraordinarily humbled by their selfless bravery - beyond words. I watched in awe as the tears quietly rolled down my cheeks. I want to shake each of their hands. I want to thank them as an American. I want to hug their widows, their children.
I know that none of it would be enough.
Tonight I went up the stairs to Eli and Logan's room and traced crosses on my children's foreheads (as I do every night) and then I just sat with them. Watching them sleep. Trying to process that this tragedy may only be a small section in their history books. Trying to decide how I felt about that. Struggling to hold onto the thought itself. Wondering if they would ever live a day like the 11th of September - if their children would. Praying fiercely that that would never happen.
While I sit here, the personal struggle that I went through today - that took my thoughts away from the significance of this day - means nothing.
I have so much to be grateful for. So much that makes me fortunate. So much that shows blessing after blessing to our family.
And for a moment today - many moments really - I lost sight of that.
For a moment, I forgot.
How much I needed to be reminded. Life is precious. Freedom is precious. Goodness in people is precious.
I will honor those who were lost on that day and every day since. I will remember. I must remember. And I will teach these things to my children.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.