9-11 is one of those times where everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. I can’t believe it has been 8 years since that fateful day. I, like all of you, remember well exactly what I was doing that day.
I was a young Army wife living in Ft. Drum, New York on 9-11-01. For those of you that don’t know where that is, it is on the Eastern shores of Lake Ontario, about 20 miles from Canada and next to Watertown. My husband was a Lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division and we had been there for a couple of years. I was teaching at an elementary school off post in the neighboring community.
The morning started normally. My husband got up really early and left to meet his unit for physical training (P.T.) He returned to change clothes after P.T. but I had just left for work. As I was in class, I didn’t hear about the attacks until I was getting ready to go to my early lunch period. That was when the realization hit that we were going to war. This was the moment when I realized the nature of my husband’s job. This was when I realized that not only was this a great tragedy for our country, but this could have a monumental impact on my life personally. I also realized that the previously inconsequential fact that my husband’s unit was on “first battalion to deploy” status meant that he soon would be sent into harms way.
I immediately realized that in all of the confusion, they would close the post and I would have trouble getting back to my house. I was not sure of when my husband would leave but knew it was imminent. It took more than two hours to get through the security checkpoints and get back on post where we lived. I went up to my husband’s unit to try to see him. When I walked in, soldiers were racing around packing ammunition into bags and inspecting weapons. I was scared to death that he was going to leave before I could say goodbye to him. He was not there. I found out later he was at the airfield making the final preparation for his unit to deploy. I went home, watched the news, and waited.
I didn’t get to see him that day, or the next. I knew he hadn’t left yet because we (all of the wives) kept track of all of the aircraft landing and taking off of the airfield. Living in the vicinity of an army airfield, this would have been hard to miss, as all of the planes sailed low over our house when they took off. I eventually saw him as he would come home to grab two hours of sleep when he could over the next couple of days. His unit deployed a few of days later. He was not allowed to tell me where he was going. I found out later he didn’t know himself until he had gotten as far as Turkey.
Right before he left, my husband got the news that he was taking command of his infantry company. That meant that I was now in charge of starting and maintaining a “family support group” for the families of the 240+ men that were now under my husband’s command. I had to figure out how to ensure that the families were kept informed with the latest news and help them resolve problems that arise while the men were overseas. While this was a little overwhelming, the wife of my husband’s First Sergeant (his right hand man) was a 20+ year army wife. She had gone through every single deployment possible from Grenada until then. She was a great person to have on our team.
Over the next few months, I watched more news than I had ever watched in my life. We (the wives) would strain our eyes searching for a recognizable face as they showed footage from the front. It was not unusual to get a call in the middle of the night from a wife who had just seen a glimpse of a guy from the unit on the news. We were starved for information about our loved ones and had to piece the information together as it came in. Sometimes that information came in the form of a news report, other times in the form of a casualty report from the army.
Our husbands returned seven months later. We were slated to move before the deployment, so my husband was home less than a week before we had to move to Kentucky and start a new chapter in his army career.
While the fires were still burning months later, I went to Ground Zero in New York City and will never forget the scale of the devastation and the tireless efforts of the crews working to clean it up. I thank God that every single member of his company came home alive from that deployment. I will never forget the patriotism, pride, and self sacrifice of the men of 1-87 Infantry and their families in the aftermath of 9-11. I was proud to be a part of it.