How do you remember September 11th?
Blog by Pete Matisoo
When you hear the date, September 11, 2001, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Some of you may not have even been born, so you probably frame your answer based on stories from family and friends, and the annual media coverage of this very significant day in American history. Others may be old enough to have vivid memories of where they were, who they were with, and what they were doing on that day.
On September 11, 2001, I was in the US Navy, stationed in Japan at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in an FA-18 Hornet squadron. It was night in Japan, and I had just gone to bed. My wife was downstairs in our tiny little home in Ebena, a few miles from base, watching the morning news back in the States when she saw the first airplane hit the north tower. She instinctively knew that was not right, and ran upstairs. I remember her words. “Sweetheart, we are under attack.” I leapt out of bed and joined her at the TV, only so see the second aircraft hit the south tower 18 minutes later. Things were going to be very, very different for us and for the America I had sworn to defend. I had even strongly considered getting out of the military, having served 12 years, weary of deployments and time away from my wife and three young boys. Sitting on the couch, watching the twin towers collapse and the carnage that ensued, I looked at her and said, “You know I have to stay.” There was no way I was leaving this fight.
The base in Japan immediately went on lockdown. It was where I worked, but because we lived overseas, it was also a central hub for my family – schools for my boys, groceries, health care, co-workers, and friends. Oh, how things changed. We were called to deploy immediately aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. Meanwhile, there were intelligence reports of Al Qaeda having operatives in the vicinity of the base. The school buses had armed escorts, but my family lived out in town. And, I was deployed, helpless to protect my family while we sought to protect our country.
These were challenging times. When we returned after about a week at sea, we set out on executing a plan to cover as many potential threats as possible. The air wing – nearly 60 aircraft in total – was split three ways. Part of the team re-deployed with the USS Kitty Hawk on a very special mission in the Gulf of Oman. Some of our assets were sent to protect an island in the Indian Ocean. The remainder stayed at home to train for the fight we all knew was coming. We trained hard. We trained with a renewed sense of purpose. When we thought we were ready, we kicked it up a notch and tested ourselves beyond what we thought we were capable of. We were not going to let our nation down.
My memories of September 11, 2001 are very vivid.
But even once-vivid memories can fade. We can forget who we are, our purpose, and who our God is. The Israelites did. God had parted the Red Sea and brought them out of Egypt with many signs and wonders. But they soon forgot who they were, their purpose, and who their God was.
But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants), and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” – Numbers 13:31-33 (NKJV)