When It Changed

By Brenda Clough

If you were old enough, and fortunate, your life did not change its course ten years ago today.  Mine didn’t, because in middle age life has more or less settled into its path.  There are many people whose lives did completely turn in a different direction.   The two I know best are my son and my daughter.

In 2001 my daughter, the Teen of Tungsten, was sixteen.  To her fury, the Red Cross would not allow her to donate blood on September 12 — you have to be 18.  Seething, she gathered together the other girls on her high school crew team, scooped up a bunch of donation cans, and had me drive them down to Ballston Commons shopping mall, in Arlington, VA.   The entire Washington region was shattered by the event, and they had no trouble shaking down the mall customers.  You would have chipped in too, if you had been set upon by a troupe of muscular teen Amazons in a surly temper.  Those Red Cross cans were crammed, full of coins and bills tamped down and squeezed in through the slots with pencils, so that they thumped solidly, without any air space.

However, she was not sated.   With terrifying focus, the TofT set herself on a life path which I can only describe as becoming Osama’s worst nightmare.  She devoted herself to athletics, becoming captain of the crew team and leading it to a gold medal at the Stokes Regatta.  She became an A student and a National Merit semifinalist.  She got into Stanford.  And she joined ROTC, which quickly recognized that she was a born leader of men.  She is now a captain in the US Army.  I am grateful every day for the Navy SEALS, who kindly killed Osama bin Laden before she got to him.  The picture shows the TofT when she was at Ft Campbell in Kentucky, learning to rappel out of black helicopters while clutching an M-16 rifle.  As you can see, there is little that remains of the girl athlete from ten years ago. 

My son had classmates whose parent died at the Pentagon that day.   He is a calmer, more easygoing kid, your typical second child.  But, as a matter of course, without stressing about it, he went ROTC too.   The nation is at war and is likely to remain so.  He is just at the beginning of a military career that will probably take up his entire life.  I am informed that the ratio of military persons to civilians in the US population is something on the order of one in 20.  In my nuclear family, it is 50-50.

This means that any military adventure, any saber-rattling, now gets my full focused attention.  Will my daughter spearhead the invasion of Libya?  (As I write this, the answer seems to be no. Give it up, Moammar — don’t make her come over there.)  Her husband has already spent 15 months with his battalion in Iraq.  Will my son help with mopping up operations in Afghanistan? (Stay tuned.)   I follow the news far, far more closely now that I used to, to the considerable detriment of writing.  Politics gets this lens too.  The sole quality of interest in a US president for me is how she (or he) can fill the role of Commander in Chief.  In the summer of 2001 I might have tolerated quitters, chicken hawks, politicians with wacky ideas about the military, or candidates who use treason for incidental political gain, but no more!  They are totally unfit to command the US armed forces — and my children.  (Oh, and my vote in November 2012?  Easy.  Obama all the way:  the man who nailed bin Laden and thus saved the TofT from having to parachute in.)

If you had predicted all this to me on September 10, 2001, I wouldn’t have believed you.  The events of 9-11 have altered my kids’ lives, and so they have altered mine too, forever.

My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Press.

I also have stories in Book View Cafe’s two steampunk anthologies, The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy II, as well as in BVC’s many other anthologies.


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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


When It Changed — 6 Comments

  1. My children’s lives were altered as well, but they have no idea how. My son was 3 months old in 2001, and my daughter wasn’t even born yet. Their lives were changed before they had any way of knowing what life was like before those cursed events.

    I just had a conversation with my 10 year old son yesterday about the events of 9/11. I wanted to know what he knew about that horrific day and why it happened, etc. Surprisingly, he actually knew quite a lot, but we spent some time discussing the philosophical differences of those who followed/follow terrorist dogma and why they unleashed this act of horror on America that day. We talked about what their aims were and are and what they hoped and hope to accomplish through their acts of terror. It was a good discussion–at a level a 10 year old could understand and then when my daughter joined us later, we continued the discussion a bit longer on her level. We, in our neighborhood, fly the American Flag on each of the houses lawns for each Patriotic holiday throughout the year. We placed the flag in our lawn yesterday and will fly it again today and tomorrow to help us remember. It is an inspiration to walk or drive throughout our 10 mile square block and to see flags waving in honor of those who died on that dreadful day.

    But we also want to remember all who have fought for or who have worked unceasingly to make America what it is, a land that recognizes the inalienable rights of all mankind, a land that recognizes the need for equality and freedom for all God’s children.

    We respect and pray for all who serve in our armed forces striving to defend our freedoms and aiming to provide the same opportunity of freedom for those whose countries or cultures prohibit them.

    Thanks to your son and daughter and son-in-law for their conviction and sacrifice. We honor them and all who work to defend and preserve the freedoms which make America a blessing to all who respect and honor her and what she stands for.

  2. They are a wonder, Brenda. We honor their choice to defend what our ancestors worked so hard to secure, and what we all value so much — our constitution, and the country it represents.

    And I have little doubt that someday I will be voting for ToT for high office, or encouraging my senator to confirm her for something of note. There will be people like bin Laden for the foreseeable future, and people like your children will be the ones on the front line, protecting this country and allowing it once again to be a beacon of hope and invitation to those who would be free.

  3. Heavens, don’t encourage her! The other 9-11 anecdote of the TofT took place on Sept. 12, 2001. She said to me, “The world is messed up.” I could not but agree. She further reasoned, “Grownups messed it up.” Again, there seemed to be no argument against this. After a long pause, she came to her conclusion: “I have to do something about it.” And it was at this point that I should have intervened. I am not sure she would have believed me if I had said something like, “But math is hard, darling, Barbie says so!” or ‘Boys never make passes at girls who rule the world with a rod of iron.” But that was my last chance to turn her from her path, and I missed it.

  4. Plus, she found a great guy who was not deterred by her rod of iron. So you not only would have failed at your mission, you would have been incorrect as well.

    I have a vague memory of you mentioning this before. I thought then and now that you are lucky to have children with focus and drive. (Also, they don’t want to write fiction, so they with luck will make more money….)

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