September 11, 2016
It seems every generation has a "where were you when..." moment and the September 11th attacks loom larger than any single moment in American history because so many people experienced it in real time. Seared in my memory was a routine weekday morning interrupted by Dr. O phoning from his car to tell me to turn on the telly and I switched on NBC and saw Tower 1 burning as Katie Couric provided stunned commentary. Less than an hour later, a 2nd plane came into frame then disappeared behind Tower 2 with flames bursting thru the front. Like everybody else, I instantly knew the Tower 2 impact was extraordinarily well coordinated terror.
I knew the world changed in that moment perhaps in a way it shouldn't have. When both towers fell, I assumed like most others there would likely be casualties far beyond 10,000 after hearing of the many hundreds stranded above the flames jumping to their deaths rather than passively waiting to be incinerated. I like to think I'd have been among the jumpers who chose to go out on their own terms.
Later that afternoon, I met The Good Doctor and Doc M at a sidewalk café in the 'Viagra Triangle' (a famous nightlife district anchored by Gibson's Steak House), as we discussed what happened and what was next. A half million people evacuated the downtown business district all at once just a few minutes after Tower 2 was hit. We watched thousands of commuters walking by heading north carrying briefcases, with many women barefoot carrying heels, as trains, buses, and cabs couldn't handle a fraction of the sudden demand. I was then 36 years old and already knew the Army's enlistment cut-off age was 35 but Good Doc encouraged me to stop in at a recruiting office and plead my case. I did several days later to no avail and stopped by every 6 months or so and my appearances took on the same routine...."no, we have asked and told our commander about you and he sent it up but there's nothing we can do..."
Nearly five years later, on June 22nd 2006, I was in an excruciatingly boring insurance seminar. The Iraq War was at it's lowest point with troop allocations already stretched too thin, recruiting numbers plummeting, and President Bush deciding, but not announcing til months later, to go all-in with a surge requiring many thousands of additional soldiers. I'll never forget the moment of looking down at my fancy Palm Treo and seeing an incoming email saying CALL ARMY RECRUITING ASAP! About 5 minutes later, a scheduled break allowed me to go outside and make a call that forever changed my life.
Hey Mr Law, we just got a MILPER...we have you down as 41.... when do you turn 42?....okay, if we can ship you to bootcamp by your birthday, we can take you...