First off, here's a picture of the inside of a cabinet door from our house in Florida: This door represented a lifeline for me right after 9/11. (Ignore the icky looking stuff around the edges of the door. That's just glaze from where I had faux finished the outside of the cabinets - and was too lazy to finish the inside of them, too). On October 10, 2001, my husband Randey and my son Nicholas, both deployed together to the middle east. Randey was an Air Force Reservist serving as crew chief on C-130's at the time. He and his unit were activated immediately following 9/11. Nicholas was (and is) an active duty member of the Air Force and a loadmaster on the C-130's. Randey worked on the aircraft that Nicholas flew on. Both of their units were in Special Ops, operating from the same home base and both units sent forces overseas in response to the attacks against us here on American soil. They left on that day, October 10, 2001, after being told in an outbriefing that perhaps as many as 60% of them would not be returning. They were going to the frontlines in this war to an undisclosed location and would be in a communication blackout for an undetermined amount of time. I've never been more scared in my entire life. My husband and my oldest son...both headed to war. I thanked God everyday that at least they were together. I knew that Randey would do everything in his power to make sure that the aircraft carrying my son in and out of battle would be in as good a shape as possible. I knew that Randey would take care of Nick and I knew that Nick would take care of Randey. Knowing those two could support each other and hold each other up was the only thing that got me thru that dark and scary time. Every day, I would get up and make another mark on that cabinet door so that I could keep track of the days without them. And then something wonderful happened. On the 27th day of their deployment, Nick was allowed to call home. I cried like a baby after I talked to him. It was the first word I'd heard from either of them in almost 4 weeks. So I put a star above that day's mark to commemorate the occasion of his phone call. I did the same thing every day that he was allowed to call. Nick got to make morale calls, but Randey didn't. Not yet, anyway. But that was okay because Nick told me how Randey was doing and could pass messages to Randey for me. Finally, on the 42nd day, the phone rang, I answered and it was Randey. I cried and cried and cried. He couldn't hardly talk to me because I couldn't stop blubbering long enough to hear what he was saying. That first "hello" from him was pure heaven to me. It had been so long. It felt like it had been forever - who knew 6 weeks could feel like a lifetime? On that day, and every day thereafter that Randey was allowed to call, I circled that day's mark in red. I lived for those phone calls. I was a maniac whenever the phone would ring - scared to death I would miss one of their calls. It was a tense time in our lives (how's that for a bit of an understatement)! At long last, 64 whole days after they'd left, on December 12, 2001, they both returned home. My heroes. They had gone off to defend our country, to keep us safe and to do what needed to be done. They were part of the first wave. And they had finally come home. Sixty-four days doesn't seem that long, really. But it is when your country is suddenly thrust into war and your family members are shipped off to the frontlines of that war. Under those circumstances, 64 days can feel like an eternity. Trust me. I couldn't bring myself to paint over the inside of that cabinet door when we moved. I know the new owners of the house have probably done so, but I just could not do it. Looking at it reminded me of too much.
So... what does it look like when your heroes return home on a C-130? Just like this: The crew raises an American flag out of the aircraft as they taxi in...all the family and friends stand back behind a line, waiting for that aircraft to stop and release those that you hold so dear. It seemed like it took forever on that day in December of '01 for them to deplane and get over to us. At long last, I saw 2 of the most precious faces on the planet to me, Randey and Nicholas, safe again. I don't have a picture of that, though. I was too busy running across that line to hug them.
For my 3rd "Patriotism" picture, I kind of cheated a bit. I took a picture of a part of a scrapbook page I had done. It's regarding the movie "World Trade Center".
On September 9, 2006, we went to see the movie "World Trade Center". It was the most profound experience I've ever had in a movie theater. This movie reminded me why our country is at war and why this war on terror is the right thing to do. I had already forgotten some of the emotion I had experienced on 9/11. The sadness, the ache, the fear, the pride, the bewilderment, the resolve - all those feelings had sort of been pushed to the back of my mind. This movie brought them all rushing back for me. I was a little ashamed that I had already forgotten so much. I was glad to be reminded. Watching this movie was a wonderful experience. It was good to feel the sadness and the resolve and all those things in between again. I'm proud to be an American. It's a blessing that I don't ever want to take for granted. I hope everyone sees this movie and I hope it touches them as it did me.
The feelings I felt on 9/11 and the days following were the purest form of patriotism I've ever experienced. The way our country pulled together - it was awe-inspiring to live it, to breathe it, to be a part of it. It pains me now to watch politicians tear America apart with their decisive rhetoric. It's one thing to question the war, to question our leaders, to question our mission...it's something else entirely to do it strictly in the interest of gaining power. When America goes to the polls this November, I hope we don't just vote. I hope we think first. And then vote.