The sky over here where I live in Australia is overcast. In the US right now, it’s September 11, but because I’m ‘in the future’ it’s Sept 12. (For the humor-impaired, that’s a mild joke, the bit about being in the future.) Nevertheless it seems more fitting than the blue skies and warmer weather had for my yesterday.
Sept 11 has, over time, become a combination of meaning for me. I do remember the horrible day the biggest terrorist attack in the world happened in New York, and the day holds significance for me in that regard. Why wouldn’t it? That was the day our world changed forever. (And yes it did. We have farcical situations like this one that Sarah Hoyt describes, for example, and the more generalised one in her blog post, which goes more into the societal change.) Incredible stories of that day still hit hard, the heroism of United Airlines Flight 93, the willingness of this female pilot, and, for me the lingering horror and tragedy of the Falling Man and the 200 odd who jumped… for me that is the strongest memory of the Twin Tower Terror attack. Flight 93 makes me weep tears of gratitude and pride, a fierce feeling of wanting to honor the people who fought back. The people forced to jump make me weep in sorrow and sympathy…and understanding.
September 11 later became a more personal memorial date, much later on. This happened to be the date that my husband enlisted in the Australian military. He refers to this day as ‘also being his “Green Birthday”‘ – and it’s something we remember well.
Our son had just been born that year, and this was apparently a serious consideration for the recruitment officers, as they directed him away from signing up to be a rifleman, citing that he was a new father (as one of the reasons) and noted that since he also was pretty intelligent and educated, he would probably quickly get bored with the monotony of daily grunt life. The recruitment officer was a smart fellow, it seems to me, because he directed Rhys to other job descriptions that he felt would be more interesting. Rhys consulted with me on this before choosing what eventually became his job in the Aussie Army, which I frankly got excited about because it would allow him to work even more on things both he and I loved. My darling still chuckles about my reaction to this day. Still, I was filled with pride and love for a man who had made the choice to stand his ground in a war that would likely last the rest of our lives, given the way it is done.
But at the same time, he was enlisting, and all that it implies and entails. As we’ve learned to our sorrow over the years, even bases are not safe from terrorist attacks; nor is being a soldier on homeland soil, as the tragic example of Lee Rigby shows us. (And, closer to home, so to speak as he was assigned there at the time, was the thwarted attempt at a terrorist attack on Holsworthy Base in Sydney – personally a stupid idea in my mind because that’s where the 2nd Commando Regiment is… I have mental images of “Alright lads, we’ve got a live target live fire exercise today…” Shame it wasn’t like that because if it had been, this example of abject stupidity wouldn’t have happened because there wouldn’t have been this reprobate waste of space to acquit!) Nevertheless, I vowed to support him, and do my best to ensure that he wouldn’t have to worry about the homefront. This was quickly put to the test, mind – when we migrated over to Australia, he was sent to Afghanistan barely a few months later.
This September 11 marked his 10th year in the Army. A full decade – how time flies! It seems so quick, and yet… there it is. The son who was then a giggling, bright-eyed cherub is now tall (still giggling and bright eyed) and on the cusp of heading toward manhood. Rhys and I gleefully note new silver hairs on each other’s heads and are a bit stunned at times at how ‘the rest of our life’ unexpectedly was just there.
For this date, I made a cake; to quietly mark the occasion, and bought him a present – rather, made him pick a bottle of liquor that I would buy him. (A bottle of Gentleman Jack, for the curious.) I made sure that dinner was very yummy, and while he was extra busy yesterday, he enjoyed dinner and a slice of delicious cake. I think he is saving the other pressie for the weekend.
While we celebrate his Green Birthday, we also remember the day that everything changed, our lifetime’s Pearl Harbor. We won’t forget.