My Decade of War

I cried on September 11th because I worried it would affect my plans to attend NYU.

Yep, I was that immature. I was in high school.

Like most people I was also terrified that we were going to war, that the people I loved might die, and that the country as we knew it would never be the same. But for the most part it was my 5-year plan of moving to New York and living the dream that I worried about when I first realized the impact of that day’s events.

I am one of the kids who came of age during the 9/11 era. I saw the world change from idealistic to cynical in the span of a few weeks, and I always blamed it on Bin Laden and Bush and all the patriotic t-shirts. It wasn’t until a decade later I found out my journey is called becoming an adult. It happens to everyone; 9/11 just sped up the process.

When we invaded Iraq, I watched the news with a friend and cried. I didn’t know why. It was so far from me. I didn’t know anyone going to Iraq, and I didn’t know any Iraqis. It was none of my concern, I tried to remind myself, but for some reason it still felt significant.

Now nearly a decade has passed. I know many people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even some who have lost close friends there. I have also met many Iraqis – mostly resettled refugees whose families the war displaced. I have met widows from the United States and widows from Afghanistan.

I still got to move to New York, but instead of living the dream exactly the way I’d planned, I grew up. Now I have an income, a household, and taxes that I hand over every payday.

The irony doesn’t elude me that, in helping to serve and advocate for displaced people, I also pay for their displacement with every hour I work. A fraction of every dollar in my taxes to the federal government has helped bomb an already destitute Afghanistan into rubble, displace millions of Iraqi civilians, and take the lives of valiant men and women down the street from me.

Since that day in high school, I’ve worked in an office overlooking Ground Zero and lived in an apartment overlooking the Pentagon. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on that Tuesday morning ten years ago, and have heard firsthand accounts from friends and co-workers who saw limbs fly while they fled on foot, covered in ash. Then I go to Refugee Services and meet people who saw the same thing only a few months later.

I mourn the atrocities I fund. I hate earning money for good only to finance sadness. I’m left wondering: Are we done yet? For God’s sake, can we call these wars quits?

Today I am still afraid, but for grown up reasons. I’m afraid we have created a world that hates us, and a people whom we have demeaned and shamed while pursuing “liberation.” I’m afraid our veterans will get as much care and compassion as those from Vietnam: very little. I’m afraid the war will never end, or that it will come greet us at our own doors. I’m afraid that we won’t stop until every man, woman and child is displaced, since that’s the direction we seem to be heading.

And at the same time, I’m still very immature and idealistic. There’s still a part of me that hopes we can, through our votes and voices, finally demand an end to this idiocy and madness. In that sense, even with 9/11 speeding along the process, I never thoroughly grew up.

4 Responses to “My Decade of War”
  1. Joan says:

    You said this very well. It was a day when we let down all our fascades and as a united people fled to our churches knowing that the void we felt could only be filled by God’s grace. We were shaken by what had happened; afraid of what would come next; fearful for our children; saddened for the families touched. As a people, we were stunned.

    Today, when I watch the replays I still remember the shock and disbelief. Our churches are no longer full and for many, their attitude about God’s grace lasted just long enough to get them through the initial event. But, then, on the anniversary, we as a nation, pull God back off the shelf and quote the scripture to bring ourselves peace. May he convict our hearts toward love not war and forgiveness not revenge. How many thousands (many innocent) must die to fill the void only God can fill? Our peace will come when, as a people, we love peace more than war.

  2. Claire says:

    Well said Joanna. One concern is that no one seems to really be talking about ending either war… not really, anyway. So WHO is that person who will? Certainly no party seems to be heading that way.

    Growing up is hard to do.

  3. Darrell says:

    I’m sorry that it took me so long to comment but I was not in a place to do so. I want to point out that Ron Paul, a servicing Congressman from Texas, is a leading candidate for the Republican nomination despite what the media may report. Congressman Paul has been out front in his opposition to foreign intervention for 30 years. He is a champion of liberty at home and abroad. In addition he is correct in his assessment of the damage to our monetary system caused by 98 years of Federal Reserve control. He is as close as we come today among office holders to being a great man. The country struggles to be worthy of him. In addition, I have done at least an adequate job of opposing the Middle East wars on behalf of the Constitution Party.

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  1. […] And since it’s the 10-year anniversary of invading Afghanistan, I’m also including a flashback to my post on becoming an adult in the last decade of war. […]

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