Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From 9-11 to Triathlon

Today is the 6th Anniversary of 9-11 and I have been wondering where the time has gone? I was living and working in Nashville on that fateful day. It is amazing how that one day has totally changed my life. I did not know anyone personally killed in NY or at the Pentagon, but the events put in motion by this single day have changed my life.

I served on active duty in the army from 1993 to 1999. When I left active duty, I was not sure I wanted to play any more. However, after living the life of a civilian, getting divorced and working 9-5—I was bored. So pre 9-11 I joined the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion in Knoxville, TN. Prior to 9-11, Civil Affairs was the reserve component you wanted to be in if you wanted some cool travel and interesting jobs. After 9-11 it just meant you stayed busy. So back to how this changed my life—it ultimately led me to Washington DC.

On 9/11/01 I knew that our lives were changed forever. I was completely shocked at the reactions of some of the people I worked with. They were acting like this was just a fire or some other calamity in another city. I was really shocked at how much people did not understand what had happened. For example, a lady that worked for me was concerned about me learning to fly (I was working on my private pilots license at this time) so when I walked in the office she started lecturing me on the dangers of flying. I asked what she was talking (I had been listening to a book on tape) and she informed me a plane at hit the World Trade Center. I immediately asked her if it was known whether it was a small private aircraft or a commercial jet. She told me that it was a big jet. I immediately looked at her and told her it was an act of terror and probably Osama Bin Laden. She looked at me like I was insane and walked away muttering about right wing nuts. A few minutes later after the second plane hit, she ran in and asked me how I could know something like that. (Hey—once you do some intelligence stuff you really never stop looking). I sat in my office and listened to the radio and was just numb. I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t mad—yet, just numb. Some time after the 2nd Tower fell; someone hooked up a small black and white television in another part of the office and finally walked over to see the devastation. While a group of us were watching the coverage the president of the company came in and told us to get back to work. His comment was something to the effect of, “None of knew anyone there and there was nothing we could do about it anyway.” I saw red and my boss actually grabbed my arm and led me from the room. He knew how angry that made me. To make a long story short—the next week I was asked politely to find more work. I suspect it had to do with the fact that I would probably be called back to active duty and they would have to hold my job.

So mid November I started working with another company as a consultant. Talk about a road warrior. Take off Sunday afternoon and come back on Friday night. It made for some long weeks, but the pay was good. Right after Christmas of 2001, we were notified that our battalion would be mobilized and sent to Afghanistan. I spent the vast majority of 2002 in Afghanistan (I could write a book about that). I was in Frankfurt, Germany on the first anniversary trying to get back to Afghanistan after two weeks of leave.

After returning from Afghanistan I took a 6 month tour of duty at the Pentagon. I was not ready to return to my civilian life and I really had no ties back in Nashville. I only had my house and a really good neighbor to take care of things. During this period of time I met Donna who I ultimately married.

At the end of the 6 months, I knew I was headed back overseas. This time for a year in Iraq. On the second anniversary of 9-11, I was in back in Nashville wondering what I was going to do until the end of November when we were to be mobilized.

I really don’t remember if we did anything special for the third anniversary of 9-11 during our time in Iraq. I am sure there was something, but we were either out of the wire working, or enjoying some time off. When you are in a combat zone the big issues such as 9-11 are not important. You are focused on just your little part of the world.

When I returned to the States, I moved to the DC area (I had sold my house while I was in Iraq), moved in with Donna, and started looking for something to do. I sat on my ass for 3 months after I got back and just ate. I needed to lose some weight and get back in some shape. That necessity lead me to the DC Tri Club. Which I am very happy to say has been very good to me.

On this anniversary of 9-11 I have to say that I have found home, found a wife, and made some great friends. I have had the opportunity to do things that most people only read about and I am very satisfied with the way things have personally turned out for me. There are events that change our lives. Some of those changes occur quickly and some take time to develop and even longer to understand. It is up to use to make the most of the opportunities and challenges given to use in a positive manner. I am just glad that my glass is half full!!

1 comment:

Jenn said...

I didn't realize that you had been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, I guess doing an open water swim with thousands of people in Lake Michigan is a cake walk in comparison!!

Interestingly I posted my 9/11 story last year if you're interested .... not nearly as interesting as yours just my remembrance.