When you are growing up you study all the wars in school. Even the more recent ones - the Korean War, the Vietnam War - I learned all about them, but I know now, I never really understood what it was like for the people living through those times.
Things are different now.
On September 11th, 2001, I was at a homeschool co-op with the kids. We were living in Virginia at the time, about an hour away from the Pentagon. We had just celebrated Katie's first birthday a few days before.
During the first session of co-op classes, one of the moms came hurrying through the building and said, "All the military families need to get back to post! There's been some sort of emergency and they are closing the post! You won't be able to get back on if you don't hurry!"
I gathered up the kids and headed out for the base, having no idea what was happening. I instructed the kids to be quiet and turned on the radio. The radio announcers were saying that they were tapping in to a live news feed from one of the television stations. Then came Dan Rather's voice saying the first videos and images were about to come through. Of course, I couldn't see the images they were showing, I only remember hearing Dan Rather say, "Oh my God" when he saw the images.
I was absolutely terrified. I had only the slightest idea what was happening because the information on the radio was sketchy, but I knew it was bad. Kerry had the morning off but I had forgotten my cell phone and couldn't call him to find out if he was being called off to war.
When I reached the post, the line of cars to get through the gates was a mile long. The soldiers at the gate were searching every car top to bottom. The even had long mirrors to look underneath every car.
When we finally made it home, I ran in the house yelling for Kerry. He was already glued to the television.
We spent most of that day watching the news and fielding phone calls from people who wanted to know what was going to happen to Kerry. The news on television was horrific. Even after the plane crash there were reports of bomb scares. I can vividly remember seeing people running away from various government buildings, afraid that bombs were about to go off. At one point a military van with a loud speaker came through our neighbor hood announcing that everyone should be ready to evacuate. There were numerous reports that there were still planes in the sky that were not responding to ground control.
We needed to know what was happening. But the images of death and destruction so close to us was unthinkable. We would be so overwhelmed by the images on our television that we would turn it off, only to wander back in before very long and turn it back on. We had to know.
After that came the anthrax scares. For weeks, people were receiving envelopes containing a white powder which might or might not be a deadly poison.
I remember the fear that we all lived in for months. We didn't know if there would be more attacks, we didn't know if there would be poison in the mail. We didn't know if we would have to gather the children and flee (where?) or if Kerry was going to be called up to leave any minute to go to war.
Now, eleven years later, Kerry has been called to war twice. We have relaxed and don't feel that we might be in imminent danger of some sort of terrorist attack at any moment. We go on with our lives in this new and different world. Our kids don't remember a time when we didn't have to show our IDs to get on post and didn't have to submit to random vehicle searches.
But those of us who remember what it was like...........we know more now about what the people in the other wars went through. Having lived in Hawaii, and visited Pearl Harbor, it's much more real to me than it ever was before in my life. I have a much better idea of what the people in that time were thinking and feeling.
It's not just a story in a book now.