Everybody has one.
Just like when JFK was assassinated, or when we landed on the moon … Or when America elected it’s first black president. Everyone has a story about where they were when an unforgettable event happened.
Muna and I were living in a single-story home in Colorado. She was working as a Somali and Arabic interpreter, while I was working at the phone company waiting for my Air Force commissioning paperwork to run its course.
We heard about the first plane hitting the tower, and simply thought that it was interesting news.
But, when the second plane hit, we both were a bit shaken.
Muna called in to her office, to tell them she wouldn’t be in. I, in some strange state of denial, still headed into work with the intent of at least showing up first before telling them I would be going home.
Looking back, I feel guilty for not instinctively staying with Muna rather than going to work that day. (What if the attacks continued in every state? What if something had happened to her?)
I’m not sure why I didn’t just stay home. I guess I thought that my “place of duty” at the time was my job (even though we were clearly being attacked). I couldn’t bring myself to not show up somewhere I was expected to be. I guess I thought that I was only a few miles away, and she could call me if she needed me.
I blame the military for instilling this sense of “service before self” in me. Ordinarily, punctuality, dependability and loyalty to your profession are traits to be admired. But I let Muna down that day by exercising them. I should have stayed home with her. Every year on this day, I kick myself for not doing so. I’ve felt bad for the past eight years on this day.
How ironic is it now, that I’m spending another September 11 away from Muna (again.) This time I’m here in the ‘stan. Just like September 11, I’m away from her because I feel obligated to do the job I signed up for.
To be clear: I’m NOT some right-winged, overly-conservative, flag-waving, bible-thumping uber-patriot. But I signed a paper saying I would do this job if called upon. They called me; So, I’m here … Leaving Muna alone again. And, unlike 2001, I’m several THOUSAND miles away. If she needs me, I can’t do anything to help her.
I’m sorry, Muna.
Today, though, is a bit different. Today, my little cousin Steve (who is NOT so little) is coming to live with Muna and Taj. I call him “Basketball Head.” (Guess why.)
He’s a bit younger than me, and has aspirations of becoming a movie producer or famous screenwriter. Of course, landing a job like that isn’t easy. He’s had a few rough patches during the past few years. We offered him a chance to come help Muna around the house, play with Taj, and just be with family for a while, at least until I return home.
I’m glad he took us up on the offer.
I’ve felt bad every September 11 for the past eight years. (And I’ve never admitted it to anyone until now.) But today, if I can’t be with Muna, maybe at least having family with her can ease some of my pain this year.
I’m sorry, Muna.
Thanks, Basketball Head.