I’m not normally one to write sentimental posts nor am I one that often writes about personal experiences. But today, I did something that I do not normally do: I ran a 5K.
As what seemed like all of Camp Buehring, Kuwait lined up to run this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the number of Soldiers adorned in American flags or wearing rucks and gas masks to simulate the strife of New York Fire Fighters 20 years ago today. Many of the Soldiers present this morning were in Afghanistan a mere 2 weeks ago as the nation pulled out of the country amidst a chaotic change in regime. Yet many of the Soldiers that ran this morning — some in my own formation — were not alive on that fateful day 20 years ago.
Everyone who was conscious can recall where they were the moment that the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center, changing the face of a nation for the next 20 years. I remember being pulled out of class in the 4th grade at James B. Edwards Elementary School and witnessing my parents crying. I could not fully comprehend the magnitude of the events at hand. I asked my mom how long they would talk about this on the news. She said it would be a while. Little did I know that 19 years later, I would be flying helicopters in the country that harbored the individuals responsible for the plane crashes that day as we closed out a 20-year war.
Each year, New York City hosts the Tunnel To Towers run to honor the sacrifice of New York Fire Fighter Steven Siller who made the ultimate sacrifice after running 3 kilometers to New York City in full gear to help his colleagues as the World Trade Center fell. I can recall participating in that run in college and hearing the reverberating chant of “USA! USA!” running through the tunnel. It gave you absolute goosebumps but the pride was undeniable. The nation mourns but it rebuilt.
As I spoke with one of my Soldiers who ran the 5K this morning, we both shared the experience of suffering through some mental anguish as we turned the corner into a 20 knot headwind for the final portion of the race. It was challenging, but we both met the challenge the same way: the mental image of firefighters running into a tower in full gear pushed us through as we crossed the finish line. To those who made the ultimate sacrifice this day 20 years ago, we salute you.