The memorial ceremony here on the Island made me think back to that clear sunny day in 2001 when everything changed.
My memories were very personal and private but were given a big jolt while looking for something in my closet. I came upon a letter my son wrote to me concerning that day.
He was a newly minted Marine Corps lieutenant who was in the South Pacific on a ship called the Pelilu. I thought he was living the life of Riley doing what he had wanted to do since he was a little kid.
I was upstate when a colleague told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I remember saying that I remember when a plane went into the Empire State Building. And was I mistaken in the comparison!
I did not have family in the towers but my other son worked nearby. He was on his company’s “missing list” for a while. My daughter was in Brooklyn. I figured she was safe.
And then there was my Marine son. He was on R&R somewhere in New Zealand at a saloon when the falling towers were shown on television. He was quickly back on the ship headed straight for Afghanistan. He called me on his cellphone from the bar before he left. He sounded confident.
My other son walked uptown through the dust and debris and made it home. My daughter was fortunate —- she had not left Brooklyn that day.
My family was lucky. But everyone was numb.
I had no contact with my son until Christmas. When I called the Red Cross to try to get word to him that his grandfather had died, I was told that they could not find him even if I died.
His letter said, “I guess everything is different back home. It feels sort of weird because we (USMC) are the ones who should stop this and we are so far away. I can only speculate on what we will do next, but I am pretty sure that the Marines will be on the front lines. We are ready to do whatever is necessary. I think that our country is at a historic point and if we don’t act swiftly and violently, we will never again be the world power that we have been.
“I want you to know that if this goes really sour and we end up in a shooting war in Afghanistan or Iraq or some other place, I am ready. The USMC has trained me well. We must let the world know that we won’t stand for this.
“Whoever is responsible has kicked the wrong sleeping dog. Along with December 7, 1941, September 11, 2001 will also live in infamy. So don’t worry about me. I have a good platoon and good people in charge. And watching the footage of the city made me so proud. Everyone was working together and that is how the country will gain victory.”
My son stayed in the Marine Corps for the next 10 years and led his infantry platoons in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was a time of great worry and pride for me.