September 11. For most children in elementary school, this date has very little meaning. It is another historical marker, but has no more personal relevance than any other event that older people muse upon: Pearl Harbor, D-Day, President Kennedy's assassination, the Challenger explosion.
I, on the other hand, find the relevance of this day intensely personal. In 1992, I watched as my husband deployed for what was then known as Desert Shield. It would become Desert Storm. He was an F-16 pilot. I knew there would be no hanging back in safe zones for him. I was left at home with three children, ages 4,3, and 1, and with my own duffle bag packed and ready to deploy. I was an Air Force doctor. That turbulent time rocked both my husband and I to our core. By the grace of God, we emerged as stronger Catholics and better parents. Our marriage grew stronger. Everything we loved had been threatened, forcing us to appreciate what is truly important. Still, I would not wish such an experience on anyone.
So eight years ago, when I watched television images of the flame and the smoke pouring forth from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I felt my world once again reeling out of control. I reached for my rosary, hit my knees, and prayed with an ardor that I had not felt in quite a while. My three older children were in school. Part of me wanted to rush out, gather them in, and huddle in the safety of our home. I resisted that urge. Our country may have been attacked, but we were not going to be victims.
And so began a new era of military life. Deployments are now the rule, not the exception. Eight years later, I am still a military wife. However, I am also a military mother. My oldest is now an Army officer. There is one complex set of emotions that accompany sending your husband to war. Contemplating sending your son to war involves a completely different set, equally complex, but very different.
We owe it to the innocent victims and to the heroes who died on September 11, 2001 to do everything possible to make sure such horror does not occur again. For the last eight years and for the foreseeable future, military action is a necessary part of the strategy to accomplish this. Today, let us raise up in prayer those who died on September 11 as well as their families. Let us also offer prayers for all military members and their families. Our men and women in uniform are risking their lives to make sure that terrorist atrocities remain a remote history lesson and not a personal experience.
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer at Ground Zero
A Pilot's Prayer
Spouse of a Soldier
Mother of a Soldier
Those Who Serve and Those Who Don't