September, the month that brings us a change in season, football, the MLB postseason, and the start of school for most children and adults continuing their educations. This September however holds more meaning than the recent past years. You see this September, this month, this September 11th, is the 20th anniversary of the last attack to take place on US soil. With the end of the US military occupation of Afghanistan, and the subsequent immediate take over by the Taliban, this twentieth anniversary is yet another somber reminder of what this country was met with starting at around 8 am, the morning of September 11, 2001. Many have memories of the lives lost that day. Even more have memories of the lives given after that fateful day during the Iraqi invasion, and the aforementioned military occupation of Afghanistan. My memories of that day, that period, this past twenty years have affected me and those I know and love.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Wendell Smith Sr, VP of HBCU Con. I am a Coppin State College graduate, from Brooklyn, NY, who is also a Marine Corps veteran. By the time this is posted, I’ll have been married for twenty years this month.
Getting back to memories of the day at hand… I have friends who died the day of the attacks; friends who lost their lives serving combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan; and friends who lost their lives to the effects of their environments the day of, as well as, after serving multiple combat tours in these areas.
The day the 9/11 attacks occurred, I was living in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia for those who do not know). I’m a federal government employee, who was like most others that fateful day. I was sitting at work, doing my job, and working out last minutes details for my wedding that was to take place that following Sunday, the 16th. I was listening to the radio. I think it was Donnie Simpson’s show, Ol’ green eyes himself… lolol, when a news report came in saying that “something” happened at the twin towers in NYC. The first report didn’t fully state what had happened, but the second one did. An American Airlines, Boeing 747, was flown into the upper floors of one of the towers.
Having family and friends who worked in the towers, I started calling everyone I had a phone number for. Only to not get through to anyone. Moments later, the second plane hit, the towers and a third building fell, and that’s when panic truly set in. I managed to reach my fiancée, and she was ok, but nervous. I eventually reached my family, and they were all safe. While this was happening a third plane hit the Pentagon. Then a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
I was lucky to not have lost anyone close to me in any of the attacks the day of. I did, however, lose a few classmates who worked in the towers or were first responders at site zero the day of. All of this happened 5 days before my wedding. The day I was looking forward to. A day that was going to be bright and sunny, contrary to what the rest of the week’s weather was supposed to bring.
Friends and family who were supposed to fly in, now could not. My daughter, who was living a few states away could not fly. There was mass confusion as to whether the wedding would even still be allowed to take place. There was confusion as I didn’t know if I would be called back onto active duty. There was just overall confusion, as to what was really going on. Between conspiracy theories, and limited facts being provided, the world was in turmoil.
What came of it all? The second war in Iraq, leading to the death of Saddam Hussein. What was at first called a “conflict” in Afghanistan to hunt down the leaders of Al Qaeda, namely Osama bin Laden, became a 20-year “war”. Bin Laden was killed, but the “war” yielded no measurable results for the men and women who served during the conflict.
The heightened military presence, supported by an increase in enrollment in the military, fed this fight to punish those who were responsible. A military occupation which over the past 7 or so years, has become heavily politicized, depending on which governing party held the presidency. This past month with the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the inevitable was found to be true. The military and government of Afghanistan were not going to stand against Taliban action.
Time will ultimately tell the full story. What can we do? Continue to live our lives to their fullest. Enjoy the time before us as it’s given and do our best to bring positivity and happiness to the world.
…Twenty years of conflict.
…Twenty years of losses.
…Twenty years of memories.
…Twenty years of marriage. Happy Anniversary Lisa.