Every story begins somewhere. I mean you wouldn’t open a book and start reading from the middle would you? So I guess it helps to know where this story began to take in the scenery here along Exit 51.
I got to thinking about the notion of when exactly I started down this road because I’ve got a trip coming up to go to the Toronto International Film Festival. Back in 2001 I had exactly the same plan – just watch movies, spend time with friends, and enjoy myself.
Only I never got there. I was supposed to get on a plane on September 13, 2001. As we all know, it took a while for flights to resume after the 11th. And as far removed as I was from any direct connection to the events in New York, DC, or Pennsylvania, I’m still feeling the effects of a chain reaction that was set in motion that day.
If it hadn’t been for that day, I would not have met my husband. He was in the middle of packing up, selling his house, and moving out of state in October 2001. Then he got word that his National Guard unit was being mobilized for a year. Bye-bye Austin, hello Aberdeen. It was during that mobilization that we met.
Fast forward to October 2004. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, surrounded by family and friends, we became husband and wife. All through the process of planning our wedding, the idea of another deployment was in the back of our minds. We’d even gotten a second marriage license just in case orders came through before our planned date and we needed to visit the courthouse. But thankfully, the day went without interruption from the Global War on Terrorism.
Two weeks to the day after our wedding, I got the worst news possible. Orders were coming through for an extended deployment. In that moment, I was no longer the ‘newlywed’. I became the ‘war bride’. The next two months were spent in crisis management mode pulling together what usually takes a lifetime – wills, power of attorney, cemetery plots and burial plans. Have you ever tried to buy a life insurance policy for someone going into a war zone?
Eighteen months later we are reunited. We buy a house. We get on with the business of building our life together. And then eight months later it happens all over again. By the time we reach our 3rd wedding anniversary later this year, we will have only spent 15 months together in the same place. The Army, the Global War on Terror, has had him more than I have.
I think about that a lot with this trip coming up. That one day which so profoundly and utterly marked a country, changed lives, is still being felt in countless ways. For me, I see it every time I open the door to an empty house, with every piece of his mail that I have to open, in the face of people when they learn that he deployed again.
That’s how I got here and I can’t do a thing to change what’s happened. I can’t rewrite world history. Nor do I think I would even if I knew then what I know now. How could I, knowing that the same force that has taken him away from me twice now is what brought him into my life in the first place.