September 11 Didn’t Change Who You Are
I was a 14-year-old kid on 9/11/2001. My older brother was 18, and had just entered Navy ROTC. That day, I called and asked him if he was going to war, and he chuckled at me. I realized later how foolish it was to ask a brand new officer cadet—hair recently cut, getting yelled at by a portly senior chief about properly shining his shoes—if he would be shipped off to The Front like some kind of wartime draftee.
But five years later, he did go to war. He flew hundreds of combat missions over Afghanistan, and now boasts an impressive and decorated career as a naval aviator that our dad won’t ever quit bragging about.
Americans get introspective on the anniversary of 9/11. We remember details about where we were (I was in 9th grade Spanish class), the first things we did (I took a verb conjugation test), and how it affected us in the days after (I watched a lot of TV, including Jon Stewart’s emotional address, which I watch every year on this day.)
Why do we do this?
Because it’s a way of making sense of it all. It’s a way of notating a portion of our thinking on this day, like a mental note in the memorial guestbook of our country.
It’s also common on this day to point out that 9/11 changed the world. It was undoubtedly an impactful, globally important day, yes, but it’s become almost cliché and trite to remind ourselves every year of how it changed everything.
9/11 affected national endeavors like politics, diplomacy, and war, but it didn’t change who people are deep down. This is especially true of men and women in service-oriented jobs everywhere, the kinds of people for whom GovX was built.
A police officer. A soldier. A firefighter. Most people in jobs like these were the same, moral, service-oriented people the day before 9/11 as they were the day after. Yes, amidst the horror of that day, their commitment to service may have intensified and their resolve may have strengthened, but the commitment itself was always there. And in that sense, their goodness was unaffected. In that sense, 9/11 changed nothing, and there’s something inspiring in realizing that. There’s something inspiring in realizing that evil actions, while they may provoke justifiable retaliation, cannot shake a servicemember’s commitment to their work.
If you’re a member of the military, or a law enforcement or fire department, a federal agency, or some other community of service, know that while 9/11 may have made you cry, angered you, or maybe even inspired you to wear the uniform, know that it didn’t change who you are as the person who wears it.
Some people join out of an honest feeling of obligation to serve their country or communities.
Some join simply because it’s a job with a paycheck.
Some people, like my brother, join after curiously thinking, “Hmm, I could do that,” and end up being damn good at their jobs.
It matters less why you joined. It matters more that you did join. And regardless of how you made your decision, there’s honor in that. So, once again, we on the GovX staff thank you for making your decision.
Leave a comment below with your own thoughts about the anniversary of 9/11 and what that day means to you.
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