By LTC Derrick Sorweide, DO, FACOFP; United States Army Reserve, Medical Readiness and Training Command; ACOFP Governor
There are certain events for which people say, “You will always remember where you were when…” For my grandparents, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For my parents, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For my generation and the next couple that followed, it has to be the World Trade Center attacks of September 1, 2001 (known around the world as “9/11”).
I was in the shower getting ready for work when my wife came and got me with a terrified look on her face. She couldn’t say anything except, “Come see.” I was terrified that something had happened to my kids, our pets or our neighbors as we ran up the stairs. She pointed to the TV, as I verified that the kids were there and OK.
At first, I thought it was a spoof, or the opening to a new action movie. Like many, it took a few minutes to register what we were watching. Then, we just watched in silence and horror as the events occurred. Then the phone calls came—from family, my employees, my hospital, our friends. So much confusion and sadness. I went to meetings that day at our hospital to share knowledge and make plans. I also met with my staff and their families to do the same.
We all knew that our lives had just changed, but we were not all certain how yet. We were glued to the TV. Shocked, horrified, scared. To this day, I know people who cannot watch that footage. However, in some of our hearts and minds, there was more.
There were the drumbeats of the call-to-action. It’s a deep, calm, focused feeling that is hard to explain. It’s similar to the moment when an athlete walks onto the field or a performer onto the stage. Those with prior service or who were serving, knew that this was “that moment” that they had been training for. Some people rushed to New York to see if they could help. Others rushed to enlist in the service.
We knew we had to do something. What we had no way of knowing was that it would lead us into the two longest wars in U.S. history and, that now, on this 20th anniversary of that day, we would still be unclear as to where the war in Iraq was heading, or that we would sit horrified as we watch the events that are ending the war in Afghanistan. Many who rushed to sign up on 9/11 are now receiving their 20-year letters, letting them know that they qualify for full military retirement. Sadly, some from my generation have watched as their children have been sent to the same war zones that they served in.
Just as I prayed that day for the people in those towers, in the Pentagon and on those flights, so today do I pray that we will all find a better way to resolve conflicts someday.