“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese
So much has happened since I first wrote this, although I still like to share it every 9/11. I am no longer married and Tucker is no longer here with us….but as I read this I am still grateful for his patriotism and spirit. This event in our world shaped the little boy that he was and the man he would have become.
Originally Written 9-11-08
September 11th, 2001 & Beyond
Most of us remember vividly where we were on this day. I was sitting in my living room with my then 2 year old son. Suddenly my husband, with a telephone to his ear, ran into the room screaming, “Turn on the TV!” Which he did before I even had a chance to get up from the sofa. Then I saw it. In New York City, the smoke billowed from Tower One and the news reported that we, America, had been attacked. I watch dumbfounded as the symbolic building in a symbolic city burnt, feeling confused and disoriented. This was America, we don’t get attacked! Attacked, on our soil? And then it happened. Tower Two was struck and my despair, my fear, my confusion heightened. Soon we learned of the Pentagon and then Flight 93 that plunged to the ground in Philadelphia while in route to the White House. Then our world shook as the Twin Towers collapsed into a pile of rubble. Soon we and the world, were glued to the TV desperate for answers as we watched and re-watched the attacks over and over again.
What many parents, myself included, didn’t notice right away was that so was our children. Mine, as I mentioned earlier, was 2 years old. He undoubtedly had no idea what was happening. He was so young, he didn’t understand national pride yet or what it meant to be an American. What position America held in the international community. To him this was just as real to his life as any other explosion or burning building in any other television broadcast. But something in the way his parents acted must have told him otherwise. My son at this tender age, paid better attention than I gave him credit for.
Over the preceding months, as you may remember, national pride was at an all time high. People mounted American flags on their porches and pasted stickers to the cars. Friends and neighbors join the armed forces and national guard in droves. Camouflaged pattern everything came into style and we Americans were going to show them. You can attack us, but you can’t keep us down. All the while my 2 year old son continued to watch carefully.
Over the preceding years since that fateful day many of our neighbors and proud American have scaled back on the pride-filled display of patriotism. Flags came down, cars were traded in and no new flag stickers were re-affixed to the newer models, people started to go along with their own lives. For some, the ongoing war in Iraq became a focus of their lives. Others the idiotic leadership provided to us by President Bush became a focus. And while nearly every American I have encountered would say that they are still affected by the events of 9/11, none as much as the 2 year old boy who hardly understood what was happening that morning 7 years ago but watched ever so carefully.
For Tucker, national pride continued to grow, quietly and steadily. Tucker never took down his flag, it hangs in his room in lieu of the typical Spongebob posters found most often in a 9 year old’s room. Tucker never gave up the camouflaged pattern every things either. From clothes to wallets to bed sheets, Camo, camo, camo. To Tucker spotting a man or woman in fatigues was better than any celebrity sighting. Seeing a military vehicle was like laying eyes on a time traveling DeLorean. Yes, 9/11 without a doubt changed the direction of many people’s live, but for Tucker it gave his life direction. That day set a course for his future that he daily continues to prepare for, as do I.
I remember clearly the day that I knew to be true, without any doubts, what Tuckers future would hold and the word military was in it. I recall learning I would have sons and momentarily praying that they would not want to follow in the Grandfather’s or Dad’s shoe by serving in the armed forces. Not that I am not a patriot, just that I was afraid. I couldn’t imagine a world where I would be burying my son because he died on foreign soil. I dare not imagine. As my son grows and so does his national pride, I have come to realize that I don’t have to imagine anything, just prepare and have faith. But he is only 9 you say, kids change their minds. Who ever really became what they said they wanted to be when they grow up. After all, I never became a teen queen pop star. But this was different and I came to realize that when the following event took place.
Tucker was now in first grade, a 6 year old and 4 years after the attacks. He was learning to read that year and struggling with the concept of phonetics. We drilled letter sounds and encouraged him to take each word one letter at a time. Tucker still spent most of his playtime driving his mini tanks over mini bunkers and mini lookout towers were bombed by mini army men in mini toy planes. War game became his favorite thing to do. Army toys became his first choice. That and all the camouflaged pattern every things he could get his hands on. When asked what he wanted to do when he grew up he would say fight in the war in Iraq, I would cringe and pray that the troops would at least be home before then. But if not Iraq, then somewhere else and I knew that to be true. He wanted to defend America when he grew up. Plain and simple.
“Mom, what is the best military?” His asked me one fall day.
“Well that depends on who you ask.” I said jokingly “Each branch of the military I am sure thinks they are the best.” I explained how the different branches focused on different kinds of protection and that he had to think about what he like best.
Tucker bent up his arms, grasping his hands together in a makeshift gun held closely to his face, as he had seen on cop shows. Then he pressed his back to the wall and slid around a corner, extending his arms and “hand” gun before him and said, “I wanna be like the guy who sneak around. I wanna be in the ground troops.”
Then he asked, “Mom who is the boss of the military?” I explained to him that it would be the President of the United States. And then the 6 year old little boy with eyes of blue and a blonde “army cut” exclaimed while holding his right pointer finger in the air. “That’s what I’m gonna be when I grow up!”
I smiled at his ambition and said, “Well if you want to be President then you better watch your P’s and Q’s for now on, cause when you announce that you are going to run, everyone will look at everything you have ever done.”
Tucker grinned at me confidently, “Mom, I will know my P’s and Q’s by the end of this week cuz I gotta know my R’s by the end of second grade.”
I stifled my laughter and said with as much encouragement as I could. “Well you keep working hard at it.” He agreed and went back to his war games. It took several days for him to return to me with this question, “Mom, why does the president only need to know the P’s and the Q’s?”
I smiled and stifled my laughter again as I replied, “Oh honey, the President needs to know all the letters, but the P’s and Q’s are really important.”
Since that day, Tucker has explained to me how he would like to serve in the Marine Corp. like his Dad for 8 years maybe more, after which he will then become the President for 8 years, of course. Several years later he is still on a mission to become the leader of the free world. Now pride fills me more than fear and to see true passion in a person is inspiring. I love my son so much and his determination amazes me. While the events of 9/11 forever changed him, while I may never know what he would of wanted to become had it never happened, I am thankful that God has given me his whole life to prepare.
Tucker never made it to foreign soil. I was so afraid of losing Tucker early, maybe instinctively I knew that he would not be long for this earth. I feared he would be attacked and unjustly taken from me, his family and friends. Ironically he was but in a different kind of war. A war that rages on against childhood cancer. Military remained a focus of his life right up until the end. When he was diagnosed one of his first concerns was if he could still be in the military if he had cancer as a kid. He took his camo blanket to the hospital often and died with his Grandfathers Purple Heart and Commendation metals next to him. He was brave and became a true hero in many peoples eyes. He never gave up and remained steadfast in his faith. All of these traits were the makings of the best President of the United States we would of ever had.