The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

EIGHT YEARS LATER |

May 07, 2009

EIGHT YEARS LATER
Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 5/8/09
Stationed in: a military hospital in the U.S.
Milblog: From Our Perspective
Email: [email protected]

The September 11th Pentagon Memorial opened last year, and while I had an invite to the official unveiling I could not bring myself to go. This weekend was different, so with friends in tow I worked up the courage to make the journey. I knew it was going to be a hard thing for me. After losing friends that day and being at the scene as a medical provider there were too many painful memories for it not to be.

The day dawned bright and beautiful; sunny, cloudless blue sky, temperatures in the 80s. A day a lot like Sept 11th, 2001, and there was an eerie sense of calm as I stepped out of my car and took it all in. Sucking in deep breaths I reached back for the flowers I had brought and straightening with them in my shaking hands I gazed at the memorial. It was the first time I had seen it except in a picture or architectural plans.

As my friends walked by my side, my steps slowed with trepidation the closer we got to the entrance. Two black granite walls were inscribed with “Pentagon Memorial” and words which reduced me to tears.

The first wall said, “We claim this ground in remembrance of the events of September 11th, 2001. To honor the 184 people whose lives were lost, their families and all who sacrifice that we may live in freedom. We will never forget”.  

The second wall bore these words: “On September 11th, 2001 acts of terrorism took the lives of thousands at the World Trade Center in New York City, in a grassy field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and here at the Pentagon. We will forever remember our loved ones, friends and colleagues.” 


Framed Kalaine Pentagon Memorial 4

As my vision began to blur I scanned the names for one in particular. Unable to find it I clutched the flowers to my chest and began to cry in earnest. I remembered hearing the words “We can’t find him” that day and in the days that followed. I smelled the jet fuel and saw the flames and black clouds of smoke rising from the destroyed building. I heard the “evacuate” orders and in my mind I watched people running. Pain blindsided me and sobs buried deep within clawed their way out. I wanted to fall to my knees, wrap my arms around my body and scream with the absolute agony of the hurt inside me. The sorrow overflowed and I was helpless. My friends, on either side of me, wrapped their arms around me and protected me from the onlookers witnessing this very private hell.

Slowly I was able to regain control and move forward into the memorial. As I walked the perimeter I looked at the years on the markers. The memorial is set up from youngest to oldest, each name engraved on the open end of a bench, with the bench opening to the Pentagon if the person was on the plane or opening away from the Pentagon if the person was in the building.

Framed Kalaine Pentagon Memorial 3

Reaching the correct year I began to walk amongst the granite and silver benches; once again unable to find that particular name I began to feel panic whelm up inside me. My friend called my name and as I turned around he pointed and said, “It’s here”.  Making my way over I sat and laid my flowers in the water flowing below. Thoughts and images raced around in my head, silent screams once again threatening to become audible.  How is it possible after almost eight years it can still hurt this badly?

Framed Kalaine Pentagon Memorial 001

Later I faced my friend and looked at him and said, “You often tell me I am passionate about my work, protective as hell of my wounded and their families." I waved my hand in the direction of the other benches and the Pentagon. “This is why." With tears streaming down my face and in a voice choked with emotion I spoke of that day and I told him things I have never shared with anyone. I talked about the very basic fact that, to me, every single one of the men and women I care for is helping to prevent another September 11th.

When I finished speaking he walked over to me and wrapped his arms around me, my sobs again taking over as we stood there. A combat veteran and a nurse, both with memories too painful to put into words but sharing the common ground, the agony, that such images and experiences bring.

Needing to be alone I wandered off, and when I was ready I circled back around to meet my friends.  As they approached I saw another woman accompanying them. As we drew even she gazed at me and said, “I’m sorry to intrude, but I felt led to come over and tell you how sorry I am for your loss." Her face filled with sadness. She said she was from Texas, and I recognized her as the woman who had arrived at the same time we did, and had witnessed my collapse. Embarrassed, I wanted to move on, but she opened her arms and said, “I’m so sorry for your pain. Please, I’d like to give you a hug if I may.”  In that moment the kindness and empathy of strangers was shown to me. She understood, even eight years later. I briefly hugged her, thanked her for her words and had to move on, afraid if I stayed any longer the pain would resurface and I would once again be reduced to wrenching sobs. 

Framed Kalaine Pentagon Memorial 5




Comments

Thank you. Always remembered..

I will have to stop next time I am visiting the area. Thanks for the memory.

I drive past the Pentagon Memorial almost every day and keep thinking how much I'd like to stop and visit. I'm also looking for a particular person. His father is a friend. It doesn't matter what time of the day or night I'm driving past or what the weather. There's almost always someone at the Memorial. Somehow, in spite of the traffic rushing past on Rte 110 the Memorial gives the impression of tranquil silence.

I've discovered not a lot of people know about this memorial, but when they learn of its existence they want to visit. Thanks for posting the backstory and for such lovely photos.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Thank you for letting me grieve for losses today (Memorial Day).

Great pictures, too.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c5f3053ef0115706d9b92970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference EIGHT YEARS LATER:

« Previous Article | Main | Next Article »




Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog

LINKS



About

My Photo

FEATURED BOOK