Remembering September 11th A Marine's View
I thought I would include a few thoughts on that year and half of action that started off with a day, 9 years ago and all the way across the nation.
Many people know that I was in the Marines, but not many know that during the start of Sept. 11th I was already equipped with desert goods and on my way to Egypt for a training exercise. I was actually standing in line to get a new ID card because just a week before I had been promoted to Corporal. Imagine if you will, I was a mere 20 years old, standing in line for my new promotion ID, dressed in desert cammies when the news came on in the waiting room. No one paid attention. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a television show or a movie. I drove back to my unit and heard it again on the radio as I drove: I turned it off, Howard Stern was always pulling those jokes that were not appropriate. I pulled into my unit and it was empty...no one was in site. No Marines smoking and hanging out waiting for the word or the next football game. No NCO's stomping about giving orders...no one.
I think that sitting in my car with the emptiness in front of me was my first clue that something was wrong. It was 9 am in the morning and the yard should have been full of 300+ Marines. Then I remembered that my roommate was supposed to be flying back from Virginia. Do you know that feeling in your stomach of tightness and cold? That feeling is nothing compared to the rest of my day but I still remember it. I called her cell, at this point I would like to remind you that cell phones were not that common as it is today. I called her cell and she answered: "I could not get on the plane. I was sick to my stomach and sweating and could not step onto the plane. Tell my SGT that I have been trying to call him but he hasnt answered, I will take another flight in the morning." I told her it was okay and I would relay her message. She then said, "did you hear? Where have you been!" Later I would learn that the plane she had stepped off of had crashed into a field and that she had saved her own life. At the time I had laid it on being an emotional pregnant wreck.
I went inside the CP (command post) to check in with my SSGT and he sent me to the barracks with everyone else. Why is it that with memories come feelings? This was the moment that I realized that my husband had not called me that morning. He was stationed in NC, I was in CA and we were in constant contact. I was standing in front of my SSGT when this came to me in a rush: Daniel did not call me. I dialed him, no answer.
I dialed again and the lines were jammed. I still did not know the extent of damage that America was experiencing but I knew that he would have called, should have called. I think that my SSGT knew what I was thinking because he pushed me into a chair and opened up the Marine Corps server to look up the number to our sister unit in NC. He got an answer after 10 minutes but they could not tell him anything. Here is a nice place to tell you that because our MOS (job field) has only about 1000 people in it, we all know each other. You run into each other on operations and missions and you get transferred around so you all know each other. So when I say that he called, he was calling a friend of his over there and they could not say what he wanted to know: "That level of knowledge is a need to know basis." He hung up and said he was sorry, but could not tell me anything other then both my husband and I knew our duty to our country.
I redialed the number. My fingers felt numb, my stomach freezing in the September heat. Inside the Marines, so much gets done by who you know, not what you know. He leaned back in his chair and waited with me. When the office b***h answered the phone I knew I was right to redial. "Rice. Tell me where he is." Can you imagine this moment? My yearmate had been sent to NC right off and I had been sent to Japan where I met Daniel and then to CA. Rice is a sweet woman who knew better then to cross me but she tried the same line: "That level of knowledge is a need to know basis."
"Bullshit. You know my clearance level and if you don't then I am surprised at you. Rice. Tell me where he is." This is the point that stammering starts and words such as orders, trouble, and sorry. This part I am very proud of. "Bullshit. You owe me. Those two cute kids, that husband of yours. You owe me. I kept your secret, I never told anyone what was happening. Both you and him could have been drug to the court for it too." Yep, it has alot to do with who you know, but sometimes having alittle bit of dirt on someone helps alot too. She told me that Daniel was on a flightline waiting for a lift to NYC for cleanup detail. She promised to call my cell when they lifted off because none of them were allowed to leave the flightline or to call their families. I think my SSGT was impressed.
I went back to my barracks room and fumbled with my key. The door next to me opened and a head poked out. "Corporal, can we use your internet?" Like I said, I had just been promoted so I was still getting used to the title that came with it, but my platoon always knew that they could rely on me. Of course, my platoon wanted to contact their families and the next thing I knew, my room was full of Marines, emails, phone calls, and a television that kept showing the same images over and over. It was a level of comfort that we all sat in that room together, 30 of us sharing that terrifying day. Do you know that none of us regretted our military service on this day? That we could be called to go to war had not yet entered our minds but we knew that we had been attacked and that it was coming.