Commentary: Memories of 9/11 hopefully bring inner strength
September 19, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 19, 2008) -- The steps of a good man are ordered. As I sat there at 0630, Sept. 11 attending the Pentagon Memorial dedication, my mind quickly took me back to that dreadful day in 2001.
I remember it like it was yesterday. At the time, I worked in the Pentagon in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, Human Resources Policy Directorate as an Equal Opportunity staff advisor. My boss asked that I come in off leave on Sept. 10, saying she would give me leave on Sept. 11. I still have that one-day leave form to this day.
I got up on the 11th with the intention of going to work at the Pentagon even though I was off. In a last-minute decision I decided to just stay home and enjoy the day off. What a day that turned out to be!
It was all over the news. My aunt from Detroit called me and was relieved when I answered the phone. I was home cleaning the house with my television turned off. I learned of the tragedy when my aunt told me what happened and I quickly turned on the TV. I immediately got off the phone, tried to contact my fellow co workers, but to no avail. All the lines inside my office area were dead.
Every time I think about that day, just as I did the morning of the memorial dedication, I also think about my mother, Effie Washington. Would you believe in the midst of all the confusion, my mother told my sister to pack up the car and get ready for a road trip to DC! They headed out that night from Detroit, enroute to Washington, D.C. My sister later told me the route they took led them right by the plane crash site in Pennsylvania. What were they thinking' A mother's love knows no bounds.
It was a strange feeling as I sat there at the memorial dedication, watching the ceremony and hearing the names of the 184 individuals who lost their lives. I reflected and remembered again each and every one of my friends who perished, knowing all too well I could have been one of those up on the big screen being remembered as a fallen hero.
It was overcast as we sat during the dedication and there was a little bit of a chill in the air as well. Very fittingly, as if the Lord himself were orchestrating part of the ceremony, the only time the sun shined through was at 9:37 a.m., the exact time the plane hit the Pentagon. As we paused for a moment of silence, I felt the warmth of the sun.
I quickly thought again about my mother and, as I type this out, it is three years to the day that she passed away. It was only as I sat pausing for a moment of silence did I realize that my mom passed away at around that exact time of 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2005.
As I sat at the ceremony, I remembered as clear as day the morning my mother passed away. It was around 9:37 on a Saturday morning. My wife Brenda and I were about to go out for a minute when the spirit of the Lord spoke to me very strongly, with a sense of urgency, and told me to call and to check on my mother NOW. I obeyed and called home and spoke to Leslie my sister who had unintentionally dozed off while watching over my mother. My brothers and sisters were taking shifts. Since I was in Virginia and they were in Detroit, I had to rely on the reports that they gave me.
My sister, not realizing she had dozed off, quickly stated that, "Mom is fine, she's sleeping." I said, "Okay," and hung up the phone knowing that she truly was okay - okay in my mind, knowing in my heart that she had gone home to be with the Lord. My phone rang less than 30 seconds later, it was my nephew who said "Grandma is gone!"
moment the attached photo was taken. I left the ceremony with the purpose, a feeling of being strong and somehow getting through the day. Well, I didn't make it! I found that the pressures of the day actually caused me to throw my pen across the table in a disagreement in a conversation I was having with a project lead. This action was totally out of character and everyone was shocked. They had no way of knowing that my reaction had nothing to do with them or anything they said.
I know I am not alone. There are many who still suffer in silence, the memory of that day forever burned into their psyche. I pray for the many thousands of people who attended this and other 9/11 memorial services. I pray that they are able to find their inner strength, to wake up each day and hold their head just a little higher; to get through their days. To all who read my short story, please know, "We Shall Never Forget!"
(Editor's note: Mr. Washington continues to serve in the Pentagon, now as the Army G-1's deputy chief, Equal Opportunity Policy.)