September 11th, 2001: Where were you then? Where are you now?

  • Published
  • By Major Matthew Franke
  • 627th Air Base Group chaplain
"Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?" Country singer Alan Jackson poses a question we will hear a lot this weekend. Looking back ten years at a defining moment in our country's history, we ask, "Where were you?"

I was deployed for Operation Joint Forge. While on the phone coordinating the arrival of another chaplain, I first heard the news. "Sir, are you aware of what's happening in the United States today?" Soon the Public Announcement system instructed no one was to leave the hangar. We gathered at the Morale Welfare and Readiness lounge where I sat beside the commander and watched events transpire half a world away. Planes crashed. Buildings collapsed. Our world changed.

Where were you when 9/11 happened? Like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassinations of President Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr., it is the event that defines our era. Anniversaries give us pause to remember. Where were you? Who were you with? How did you feel? What did you do?

One year after the attacks, the chapel at Lajes Field in the Azores was standing room only as we remembered the tragic incidents that happened only a year earlier. Tears were shed. Emotional wounds were redressed. Mutual support was given. Resolve was strengthened.

Perhaps the question we need to ask ten years later is, "Where are you now?" Physically, you are wherever the military has sent you to serve our country. But where are you emotionally? Where are you spiritually? It helps to do a self-check every now and then.

Healing takes time. I must confess I still have a bit of anger whenever I have to remove my shoes at the airport. I still shed a tear inside when I look into the faces of those who have lost a loved one defending freedom. I marvel every day at the selfless dedication of our men and women in uniform and their families. And I still pray, "God, bless the USA."

What about you? Where were you then? Where are you now?