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May 6, 2011

Living and Reliving History

Joe Charlebois

I wept. I wept all alone in a Residence Inn in Marietta, Georgia. I was in a week-long training class when the news reached us. It was September 11, 2001; and, after being dismissed from our class early, I spent the next seven hours in my hotel suite overcome with disbelief.


Terrorists had struck the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and then another plane had crashed in a Somerset County, PA, field.


Having spent over 10 years of my life in Somerset, my mind was immediately taken there. That evening I left the room and met up with two of my classmates to finally get something to eat.


Tuesday morning my class – taking its first break of morning – was met by one of the medical researchers we shared floor space with. He had heard on his radio that a plane hit an office building in New York City, then a second, and that the World Trade Center Towers were ablaze. With the uncertainty of the situation the course instructors dismissed our class until the next day.


In Frederick, my wife, who had gone to work, heard the news as well. Our oldest daughter was at pre-school and the younger three – only a little more than a year old – were home with our nanny.


My wife – who was attempting to work at a client’s office – left early to meet the nanny at the pre-school to have the family together and take them home.


This past Monday morning, I came down stairs to turn on the news to confirm what I had heard on the radio. Osama bin Laden was dead.


Just as I was nine-and-a-half years ago, I stood riveted to the television.


I asked all of the children to come down stairs that morning to watch the news.


Once my first son had come down, I wanted him to know how important the finding and killing of the world’s chief terrorist was. I wanted him to know that this man was responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent men, women and children. I wanted him to know that bin Laden and his network of terror have forever changed America. I wanted him to know that thousands more Americans have died since in the War on Terror. I wanted him to know that justice was served. I wanted him to know that an extremely brave group of Navy SEALS risked their lives in the raid on bin Laden’s compound. I wanted him to know that the death of this man was a good thing.


As I went to speak to him all of the emotions and memories of that fateful Tuesday morning being pent up over the last nine years were at once unleashed on me. All the hurt and empathy I felt for those who had personally suffered attacked me like a wave. I just stood there unable to communicate with my son. I wept all over again.


He obviously was confused by the twist in my emotions but understood that the death of this man was a victory for all Americans. Not only for those who suffered on September 11, 2001, and previous attacks, but all Americans.


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