When I heard about 9/11 I was in bed asleep. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, and it was the next day already, 9/12. I was a registered nurse stationed at Yokota Air Base which is in Tokyo, Japan, and in a much earlier time zone. I was a captain in the United States Air Force and in response to an emergency phone tree our unit had set up, the phone by my bed rang, waking me up from a sound sleep. I was one of the first in our unit to be notified. I heard my co-worker Susan say, “Oh no, I’m the one to have to tell you. You don’t know already. A plane has hit the World Trade Center. Go turn on your tv and look, but first continue down the phone tree.”
I watched news reports for hours. When I heard the second tour had collapsed, killing hundreds of firefighters trapped inside, I was the angriest I have ever felt in my life. I had to do something, kick something. I put on my steel toe combat boots for protection, and went outside to kick something. I walked over to the dumpster which was a thick steel, much thicker than you’d ever see in an American dumpster. I swung my leg back and mustered every bit of kicking strength I had, and I laid into that dumpster, kicking and screaming. I was PISSED. P-I-S-S-E-D. How DARE you come into Our Country and kill so many innocent, and also so many of those who like myself who pledged to rescue and save others. I felt like a mother bear does when she protects her cubs. I wanted to tear the limbs off those responsible with my bare hands. I calmed myself picturing the bombs being loaded onto hundreds of fighter jets, set for various righteous targets. In that moment, I pledged my soul to fighting terrorism. That’s the only way I can describe it.
Susan also relayed the message that we were in Threatcon Delta, which means we have been attacked and are taking protective action. We didn’t go to work for several days. We were instructed to stay home and stay indoors with the curtains drawn. My dorm was right by the base perimeter wall. Just a few feet from my window was Highway 16 in Fussa-shi city. Across the street, and inside the perimeter, the base chapel. I felt pretty safe despite being so close to the perimeter wall. We were in Threatcon Delta or Charlie for a year it seems, limiting our freedom and increasing the time it takes to do simple things, like driving through air base gate checkpoints.
I was saddened by the deaths at the Pentagon. Noone goes to work in an office like that thinking they’re going to lose so many co-workers in an instant to such a senseless death, let alone die that day, cooked to death in a jet fuel stinking fire. Horrible. The whole day, all the events, all those who died and who lost loved ones, and those who contracted illness afterwards, whether PTSD or cancer, their suffering, just so senseless and so horrible. I watch 9/11 memorial coverage year after year, and there are still moments when I still can’t believe it. It’s too horrible sometimes to seem real. It’s too huge to allow the reality of it sometimes.
The night I heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I again felt compelled to go outside and express my large feelings, but this time, it was a mixture of joy and justice. I yelled, “F*** yeah, f*** yeah, F*** YEAH! Osama bin Laden is DEAAAAADDD!” I made sure my neighbors knew to turn on the tv for confirmation. If I had a place to go to where I thought I could connect with others over this, like those in front of the Capitol Building, and sing patriotic songs, I would have. So instead I called my whole family to tell them the news. I think I even conference called everyone. I had never thought of justice as a feeling before. I had always thought of it as a state of logic handed down by a judge. But that day, justice became a feeling, a tangible, memorable, body shaking feeling. And it is delicious. I don’t normally find joy in the death of others, but for this, I’ll certainly make an exception.