I was taking a half-day off from school so my mom, sister, cousin and myself could go to the fair. I was the first student to class, getting there early to take a quiz I would miss that afternoon. My favorite teacher, Mr. D’Agrosa, greeted me. He was from the New York area and had a daughter living there.
“Katie, have you seen this?” He asked, deep sorrow in his voice.
“It is awful. Did you hear they just hit the second tower as well?” His eyes moved back up to the small TV our class had mounted in the corner.
“Yes, my mom had it on the radio as she drove me here. The man on the radio started yelling that the second tower was hit.” I was scared, both about what was happening and my quiz.
“Do you mind if I leave the news on while you take your quiz? It’s not too hard, this one.” And he handed me the page. “Katie, isn’t your sister home on leave? That’s why you’re leaving today?”
“Yes, we’re going to the fair.”
“Stay safe today. Wish your sister my best.” I looked at his face, fear, sadness, and care. I could only nod my head in thanks.
We sat and watched in silence as the next plane hit the Pentagon. I thought about my sister and my stomach lurched. ‘Wish your sister my best.’ I suddenly never wanted her to go back to Arizona; I never wanted her week of vacation to end. She absolutely couldn’t go back to the Air Force. I started to panic as more military announcements ran across the TV screen. What if it was the last time I ever saw her?
The class kept the dismay on in the background, but at 9 we turned the volume back up. The first tower fell and then soon, the south tower followed suit. Many started crying. “Mr. D’Agrosa, is your family safe? Where’s your daughter? Are your cousins there?”
But my mind was elsewhere, would my sister be required to cut her leave short and go back to fight? Can they do that? Can I hide her under my bed so she doesn’t ever have to go back?
I was one of the zombies walking around not even hungry for the crazy fried food or grand showcases, just oddly quiet listening to the radio. It was blaring over every PA system informing us about the events that were still so unclear to us all.
My sister, growing more and more worried, turned to my mom, the constant military updates ringing in our ears, “Mom, this isn’t good.”
And the weight of it all hit me. I saw the terror in her eyes. My sister HAD to go back at the end of the week, she HAD to go back and serve this country we all call home. She was required to help defend what else was to come. That was her duty and what brought her honor. It’s the Air Force that says, "Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do.” My mom hugged her so tightly, we all did.