Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering Our Heroes...

On September 11, 2001, the world was forever changed. That fateful day touched every American, every Citizen of the world in a profound way. For me it was personal. On that day, I was sitting in my classroom with my students at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) Training Academy at Andrews AFB, MD (we hadn't yet moved to FLETC). I was an active duty Air Force Officer and Special Agent. My students were preparing to go out to our training "raid houses" for tactical assault training. First one, then a second plane slammed into the World Trade Center. We heard the explosion as American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, just across the Potomac River. We watched the smoke and flames rise into the sky. There are no words that can describe what I felt. Probably the closest I can come is... RAGE. Complete, profound, all-consuming rage. And unless you are a military veteran, or a cop, or a first responder, you probably can't understand why I don't say shock, or sadness, or fear. I was four months pregnant with my daughter at the time. Six hours after the attack on the Pentagon, I was there, at the site of the crash, helping process the second-largest crime scene in the history of our country. The largest was the World Trade Center. I didn't sleep for more than two days. I had a job to do, and despite my pregnancy my mind and my body wouldn't let me slow down. I remember driving home on the usually-busy DC Beltway in the middle of that long night, my car one of only three on the road. It was eerie. Like I was one of a few survivors of the apocalypse. I heard the afterburners of the F-16 fighters flying combat air patrol over our Nation's Capitol. After 10 years in the Air Force, the sound of jet engines was like background noise to me -- I never noticed it, even when I lived right next to the flightline. That night, I heard every jet. When I got home from the Pentagon that night, I wrote a letter to my unborn child. I read it every year, on this day, and again I feel the rage and pain and sadness I felt as I scribbled out those words. I don't ever want to forget how I felt that day. It's part of who I am, who I have become. I want my daughter to know that about me. Someday she'll be old enough to understand. The days that followed passed in a blur. There were too many funerals to count. We grieved the loss of our brothers and sisters in police and fire departments, and we prayed for the souls of the victims of the attacks and for peace for their families. We also prayed for those who would endure the hardship and sacrifice yet to come. And we went to war. Since 9-11, there have been 7 Special Agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) killed in the line of duty, in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than a dozen others have been seriously wounded. All were performing critical counterintelligence work in incredibly dangerous environments. Even tonight, as I write this, hundreds more are in harm's way. I am not a religious person--at all. But I pray every night for their safe return to their loved ones. Today I remember Special Agents Tom Crowell, Nate Schuldheiss, Dave Wieger, Matt Kuglics, Ryan Balmer, Danny Kuhlmeier, and Rick Ulbright. Tom, Dave, Matt, and Danny were former students of mine. Rick was a friend and colleague. You can read their stories here. I also light a candle and say a prayer for the firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9-11-2001. When others ran out, they rushed in. Today, take a moment to reflect on the fact that Freedom is not Free. And if you see a cop or firefighter or EMT or Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, thank them for their service. For a long time I've been meaning to put together a tribute to these heroes. I finally did it. Chances are if you're reading this, you know the music: It's "Nobody's Hero." Please take a minute to listen and watch and remember. If you are so inclined, say a prayer. The portraits shown during the solo are of the AFOSI Special Agents killed in the line of duty. They are images of from the Hall of Heroes at AFOSI Headquarters. Well Done, Agents. We are forever grateful for your sacrifice. You are my heroes.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful tribute, just amazing. While not personally affected by the events of that tragic day, I was profoundly affected. That someone could have such callous indifference to human life I will never understand. 3000 souls were lost that day, our nation was forever changed. So I start this day, as I have for the last 8 years, with a prayer for all who gave their lives and who still give their lives everyday.

    I will never forget.


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