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.