As I dwell on the potential strike on Syria this close to September 11th, I can't help but recall that terrible day eleven years ago. I was nearby the Pentagon that day and I remember crowding in the only office that had a television in it as we watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center. We all knew then that it wasn't a mistake and not long after that, the plane crashed into the Pentagon. We were Pentagon staff that had been moved out for refurbishment of our offices although I joined the team after the move so I'd never actually worked in that building. I was recalled to active duty a few weeks later and never went back to that job.
I lived within walking distance of home and walked back to the apartment in a semi-state of shock as smoke from the crash filtered through the air. When I entered our building, everyone at the desk looked soberly at me. I rushed past them, into the elevator, down to the apartment, and in the door before flinging myself on the couch and bursting into tears. We watched the television, like everyone else, obsessively. One of my co-workers, whose car was in the South Pentagon Parking lot, came over and sat with us because he couldn't get to his car and the Metro had been shut down. When the Metro finally re-opened, we walked with him to the station weaving in and out of the cars that were at a complete standstill because the roads simply could not handle all the traffic.For the next several nights, weirdly, I woke up at midnight, my mind's eye still seeing the towers crumbling. It was - and is - still hard to fathom.
As it turns out, I now work in the Pentagon and there are many reminders of that day from the scorch marks on the walls where the plane finally stopped to the giant "flag" on the wall at the Metro Entrance which has the faces of all those who died that day in place of the stars and stripes. There's the 9/11 Memorial outside and the Chapel where those who tour the Pentagon are always taken. I went on a tour once. The Chapel was hard to take. In addition to all those who were killed, there are two more stories told there. One, about the man who was nearing retirement and was on vacation on 9/11 but was unfortunately on one of the planes that hit the Towers. He died, along with all his coworkers but not together. And then there was the man who was out of the office when the plane hit the Pentagon. All his coworkers were killed and he survived but sadly, his own 11 year old son was on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. There's no end to the sad stories.
I'm struggling with the need to take action in Syria. While I agree that chemical warfare is a terrible thing, I can't quite understand why the U.S. needs to do something about it without first exhausting all possible diplomatic efforts. I don't know. But I do know that every day - EVERY DAY - I walk into the Pentagon at the Metro Entrance. As I stand on the escalator, I look over my right shoulder, gaze at the faces superimposed on the flag on the wall...and say a prayer for peace.