My morning began as such 7 years ago to the day.
I rolled over and tried to block the sun out of my face. The morning rays didn't help my hangover. I stumbled into the living room of the small apartment and asked my roommate to please shut up, that my head was pounding from the case of Budweiser I had attempted to guzzle in it's entirety the night before.
I was disheveled, confused. I would catapult from anger to grinning to solemn disbelief at what I was beginning to watch on television. Is this a blooper reel? Is this a joke? What am I looking at? There is no way this can be real.
My roommate and best friend, Eric, would later go on to correct me. "I didn't say you're going to war. I said we're going to war." He was right and he was wrong at the same time.
I had enlisted in the Mississippi Army National Guard roughly three months prior to that morning. In less than a month, I would be shipping off to boot camp in Fort Jackson, SC. I was terrified and I was angry. I was scared and I felt as if the world had stopped moving. Unfortunately it was spinning faster than ever before. I only wished it had stopped. That time had stopped. That I could wake up all over again and that this had never happened.
Once it sank in I didn't know what to do. I left the apartment and went to the roof of our building where no one could see or hear me and I began to let out sobbing screams of pain and frustration. I didn't want to go to war. I didn't want innocent people to be dead. I didn't want to live through this.
I didn't want to live through this? I didn't realize how selfish I was until a few months later.
In early November, I met a fellow soldier at Boot Camp that had experienced first hand the sadness of New York City during and after the attacks. He, unlike me, had joined after the attacks. I remember a conversation we had one night, one in which he cried almost uncontrollably, recounting to me what he had lived through.
His words forever changed me and my stubborn, selfish mentality. This was bigger than what any us had lived through. I finally realized it was more important to focus on what those thousands of people died for.
Two years later, I was sitting in the middle of Afghanistan. My wife of 7 months was closer to the coming of our first son, Connor. But, I was not the same selfish jerk only worried about the fact that I was missing out on the single most significant event in my life. Although I regret that I wasn't there witness those things I wanted so badly to be a part of, there was comfort in the fact that I was serving my country in response to the most deadly attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil by an outside agent. I was honoring those fallen.
Today, I'm off from work. I try my best not to work on September 11th each year if at all possible. This is a day I spend with my family. Today is a day that I hold my son and my wife close and thank God that I've been blessed enough to have them. Or better said, blessed enough to have never lost them.
Maybe to some, the 9/11 remembrance posts seem a little much each year. After all it was 7 years ago and we should move on. I've actually heard this sentiment from people each year.
Personally, I don't just do it to honor those fallen. I do it as a means of comfort for anyone reading this blog that lost someone that day. I do it as a way of saying I'm sorry for your grief. There are no words to truly express that. I'm doing my best through the tears right now.
There are those in our country, in our world, and possibly in our midst that will never be the same for the events of 7 years ago. There are those who will never heal. Hopefully, there are those of us who will never forget and will be there each year to say we're sorry. To listen and to love unconditionally those that still need it the most.
I didn't lose a loved one on September 11. I didn't know one single person that died that day. But, I lost out on one of the most important events in my life because of the aftereffects. My sacrifice was a small price to pay in comparison to many others.
Today, when he hugs my neck, when he holds on tight and he looks at me and I hear his little voice say, "I love you, Daddy" I'll probably break down. I don't think I'll be able to contain myself. I'll stand thankful that I have my wife and son. That I can hear Connor's voice one more time. That he's not gone forever.
This post is dedicated to those that can never do that again with their children. I can't imagine your pain and I can only whisper a prayer on your behalf. I promise you that I'll do this for you today.
But even more so are the children who lost their parents in this tragic event. God bless you and comfort you in your grief. You're in my heart and on my mind.