I was a tenth grader when the Twin Towers fell. I was in English class when our teacher turned the TV on. As we went from class to class, each teacher kept their TV on–even through lunch, even through band at the end of the day. I was 15 then, and I don’t think I would ever have guessed that day that twelve years later, my fiance would be deployed in support of a war that was started because of that singular day.
Five years later, we still are. And it’s mind-boggling, truly.
For those of us who were alive and old enough to remember, September 11, 2001 will be a day we’ll never forget. But all of our stories are different and that day has affected each of our lives differently, too.
I asked some military spouses and significant other to share how September 11 changed their lives. Here’s what they said:
“I met my husband days after the attacks. He was a cadet at the Air Force Academy and so many questions were swirling about whether cadets would be called up to serve, what war meant in our lifetime, and how our generation was changed by those attacks. I forged a friendship with a military man through phone and email through our fears of the unknown. This freshman college student had no basis for how to process the changing of the tides, but my now husband was there to lean on, and has been my rock since the few short days ever since. I realize many people in the country were affected in so many ways by the events. They brought me to the love of my life, my best friend, my knight if you will. He helped me understand the purpose of the military life, something I never thought in a million years I’d be tied to.” -Kim
“My mom didn’t let me join the Air Force when I turned 18 six months later. I realized we maybe aren’t so safe at home–but I was also reminded of all the things generations before us survived, and what we’re still trying to get through.” -Jade
“I decided I wasn’t going… be afraid in my own country. My friends were activated immediately. One, I’ve never heard from again and while hoping he lived, I’m not so sure of that. 9/11 taught me grieve to a completely different level. The enormity of helplessly watching the fear, terror and despair of others I knew or didn’t know was life changing. It also instilled this “savage” resilience to fight and defend. It changed my perspective of a world and a country I’d known.” -Felicia
“It made me more aware of the political atmosphere, of the US presence around the world. I began forming my opinions about our country and what I wanted to stand for, fight for. Of course, ideas changed, or became more complex as I got older. But it’s really where it all began. If something like this happened in my lifetime and close to home, quite literally, I couldn’t ignore it.” -Tracy
“I was just a kid when it happened. I didn’t know at the time that what happened on 9/11 was going to inspire my future husband to pursue a career in the Air Force.” -Caitlyn
“My dad was supposed to be on one of the flights but he was sick so his business trip was postponed. My aunt didn’t know about him being sick & when she called the house & he answered she just burst into tears. We watched the second plane hit the tower when she turned the news on. I grew up in Mira Mesa; not far from MCAS Miramar. We were all scared that we were going to be a target because of the base. “-Angela
“I didn’t know at the time just how much it would change my life. I remember sitting in English class watching it on TV. I remember the tears we all shed and amount of fear I had. Little did I know God had plans for me to marry a soldier. Little did I know that day that so much of my married life would be spent apart from my husband because of these terrific events that have kept us in foreign countries so the fight is on our own soil.”-Ashley
“When I got to school there was one little girl who rode the bus with me. I never really noticed her being “different”. When we got off the bus the kids that normally bullied me walked right past me to her. Started telling her the meanest things I could remember. At 5, I was learning the world is cruel, there are people who hate, who truly hate people and do terrible acts. I learned what it was like to see someone being picked on and treated like crap for being a different religion. Her name was Noel. She just happened to be Muslim. And when I saw what was happening to her I realized I had three choices. 1.) be thankful it wasn’t me who was being bullied and let her go through it alone and walk away, 2.) join in on picking on her, or 3.) Show kindness on a day where so much hate was shown. I chose to go to her and help her. I was being bullied for helping her after that. But all I could see was a scared little girl who hadn’t done anything wrong. All because some horrible people not only did something terrible but just happened to share her religion. Noel and I no longer keep in touch. But it’s because of life. She was moved to a private school and moved homes. And I feel like the day I decide to help her, changed me forever. I used to be the kid who would just sit and take it and let it happen. Now I try my hardest to reach out to people. Sometimes all you need is as friend.” -Juliet
“I think it took part in my decision to become a firefighter. I keep the quote from Mister Rogers very close to my heart: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ It made me want to be one of the people helping, and I went on to become a firefighter and later a paramedic as well.” -Meg
“I was 10. So I don’t remember it very well. However, ever since, I have a deeper respect for military. And as a teacher (and military girlfriend), I do my best to teach students to love, respect, and show gratitude for those who are serving and have served. After 9/11, many of my family enlisted. And this small town farm girl finally learned that freedom isn’t really free.” -Hannah
“I was in college. A huge crowd gathered around a tiny tv in an admin office. We all watched the second plane hit. I remember being the one who told my psych professor when she approached asking what happened. They allowed us to leave school that day. The next semester, I joined the Navy. I didn’t know my husband then, but he was in another state joining the Army.” -Jennie
“I was very young and didn’t understand at first what happened. When my mom explained it to me, I cried a lot. I couldn’t understand how something so terrible could happen. I think that deep down, it’s what made me choose the degree field I’m in (Government, National Security).” -Sara