Every year, this day is bittersweet for me. On one hand, it is my son Donovan’s birthday. But on the other hand, it is the anniversary of a dark day in American history.
I was still a soldier then, on active duty at Fort Lee, VA. I will never forget that day, because it changed my life and the lives of my husband and children irrevocably. I got to work that day just about 15 minutes before the first plane hit the twin towers. No one really knew what was going on at first. But when it came out that it was a terrorist attack, we all felt it like cement forming around our hearts. Not much got done that day from the lowest ranking soldiers to the Brigade staff, because we were all gathered around TVs and radios, listening as our lives were changed forever. I was 8 months pregnant with my 3rd son, and I remember sitting on the couch in my Brigade Commander’s office, hugging my stomach. The BC was sitting next to me, a private sitting on my other side, shell-shocked. Rank ceased to matter in that moment; we were brothers and sisters, united by the uniform we all wore.
By the next day, life at Fort Lee changed. The post was locked down, taking hours to get on and off post sometimes. Quick Reaction Force (QRF) teams were formed, Corey being one of the soldiers tasked to work shifts of 12 hours on, 12 hours off, 24 hours on, 24 hours off. Weekends became work days. That Saturday was supposed to be Donovan’s 9th birthday party, a party that never happened since all of his friends were also military brats whose parents were now working. Most kids would have been bitterly disappointed. But not my son. He decided he wanted to share his big birthday cake with the soldiers that had to work. So we got plates and napkins and forks and took it to my office. We cut it up and he personally delivered a piece to every soldier in the building. I was so proud of him and his selflessness at such a young age.
For 2 or 3 years after that, he didn’t want to acknowledge his birthday on September 11, something that made me achingly sad. No child should have the joy sucked out of their birthday. Even now, 8 years later, and probably for the rest of his life, his birthday will always be tinged with sadness for what 9/11 has come to mean, especially to him, an Army brat. Even now, 8 years later, he celebrates it without his dad, who is in Afghanistan yet again.
Life changed for us. Over the last 5 years, Corey has been away more than here, a direct result of that day 8 years ago. Between deployments and training for deployments, and all the normal Army stuff, it keeps us apart as a family. 9/11 isn’t just a single day of remembrance for a military family. It is a way of life.
But as bittersweet as today may be for the lives lost that day and in the days, months and years since, today is also a day to celebrate life. To celebrate the lives of those who lost their lives in the attacks that day. To celebrate the lives and the honor of those who have lost their lives in service to our country. To celebrate the lives of those of us still here. And part of that today is celebrating my son and his birthday.
He is 17 today, smart and talented and an all-around great kid,… most of the time! He has a crazy sense of humor and can make me laugh on the grayest of days. And he is senior this year!! How did he go from my tiny first born in Bethesda Naval Hospital to a SENIOR?! Can I really be old enough for this! So in honor of him and of life continuing on in the face of terrorism, go tell someone you love them and do something nice for someone! And now,… his senior picture gallery! Click on them for bigger views!