Monday, May 2, 2011

May Day

Twitter was afire this evening, as I'm sure you're well aware.

Many significant things occurred on the date of May 1 over just the last 80 years of history:

May 1, 1930 the ninth planet of our solar system was named, Pluto.
May 1, 1931 the Empire State Building was dedicated in New York City.
May 1, 1945 Adolf Hitler was confirmed as dead.
May 1, 1948 North Korea is established with Kim Il-sung as leader.
May 1, 1956 the Polio vaccine is made available to the public.
May 1, 1961 Castro declares Cuba to be a socialist nation and does away with elections.
May 1, 1970 President Nixon announces that Armed forces in Vietnam would be entering a neutral county, Cambodia, in pursuit of enemy troops.
May 1, 1978 Naomi Uemura becomes the first person to reach the North Pole alone, via dog sled.
May 1, 1982 The World Fair opens in Knoxville, TN.
May 1, 2003 President George W. Bush announced to the world "Mission Accomplished" in regards to major combat operations in Iraq, declaring that the operations have ended.
May 1, 2009 Sweden legalizes same-sex marriage country-wide.
May 1, 2011 President Obama announces that Osama bin Laden has been confirmed dead, at the hands of United States Armed Forces.

Yes, the terrorist leader that was in charge of the attacks that occurred on American soil, by using American jets, has been proclaimed and confirmed as being dead.

There is much cheering, Hoorah-ing, and shared patriotism across this country...Democrats & Republicans alike standing side by side, each supporting the team they're on, but shoulder to shoulder, with the same chants. Both Democrats & Republicans are not sad to hear of the death of Osama bin Laden. This manhunt & issuing war started almost 10 years ago, under the direction of a Republican President and now the manhunt has ended under the direction of a Democratic President. This is not a victory for Bush, nor is a victory for Obama. BUT it IS a victory for both of them. As Commander in Chief they are in charge of directing the Armed Forces and it is under that direction that they are in the Middle Eastern deserts to begin with.

Now, I do not agree with all or even many aspects of this particular war. It has, in my non-essential opinion, been a war that was started not only in a country hundreds of miles away from the supposed target, but had the feel of just being a grudge fuck to finish the job started by a man's daddy nearly two decades before. This war has left us shamefully in debt, the country deeply divided along party & racist lines, and THOUSANDS of young men & women lying in graves.

Of course, I'm not discounting the role self-entitled assholes played in this country going into severe debt by their scandals, billions in bailouts to companies that never deserved such in the first place, who have no intentions of repaying their debts, whether outright paying their debts or by paying taxes. Tax cuts for companies and individuals who net millions of dollars every year so that they can own luxury items en masse and do nothing really for anyone else.

All that aside, the news of Osama's death did bring a feeling of closure to my being. See, I remember the morning of September 11, 2001. Ironic as it may sound I actually wrote this poem before going to sleep around 3am that morning, before the attacks...and it would seem that I have not actually typed it up into this blog, so I'll have to find my written copy and type it up for you, unless I can find it on it would turn out to be that is shutting down on May 4th...ironically my 29th birthday...and searching for myself turns up tens of thousands of poems, either by a Stephanie or that mention Stephanie in it. I also tried other search variations to no avail. So, I guess for the purpose of this paragraph I'll include a typed version of the poem at the end of this post, so to keep myself on track with this post, and then I'll also create a completely separate post for that poem. I keep telling myself I'll get these all typed up and stuck in my blog, and I keep slacking on that.

As I was saying, though, I very distinctly remember September 11, 2001. I was just barely 19 years old, living in Decatur, Arkansas, in my cousin's grandmother's attic. I had met my (now) ex-husband just a few months beforehand, he was away at truck driving school - heh, what a waste of time & money - in fact he graduated with his CDL on September 11, 2001. I was working at Ruby Tuesday as a server during the evenings and worked at Sonic during the day as an assistant manager. When I got home from work it was well after midnight of 9/11. I called a dear friend of mine to see how he was doing, etc...he told me of his nuptial exchange earlier that evening and pending deployment to Iraq, scheduled for the next morning. Keep in mind this is before the fateful attacks.

My parents were both sitting in a county jail roughly 100 miles away, one of these days I promise to tell that story, it's been almost 10 years and I still am boiling angry over it all. My brother, Daniel, was also sitting in the jail for being a punk. Samantha and Duke were living with my dad's oldest sister & her husband.

My head & heart were both quite heavy with everything going on in my personal life, I reflected back on my life, and started deeply missing my late husband...he'd been killed in a car wreck roughly 18 months before. He inspired the poem I wrote that early morning.

After a few hours of tears I passed out and slumbered, I didn't have to be at work until 4pm at Ruby Tuesday, I was off work from Sonic the next morning. I had plans of sleeping until well after noon.

My plans were shattered with a phone call. Since I shared the house phone line with Grandma Wanda I generally allowed it to ring several times before I answered it early in the mornings. This particular morning I answered the phone around the 5th ring. It was my Aunt Renae, Wanda is her mother, Renae is also married to my dad's older brother. ((another tidbit, Renae's older brother is married to my dad's older sister)) That's how tight my family was - folks marrying their in-laws(heh heh).

Renae was in a panic, told me to turn on Good Morning America, something about a plane, and asked where her momma was...I looked out my window, saw that her car was gone, it turns out she was taking a friend of hers to a doctor's appointment that morning.

I sat there in a sleep deprived state and turned on my TV, flipped to the appropriate channel, and then sat there confused by what I was seeing. The reporter (and her name escapes me at this moment) was reporting about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers directly behind her open window studio, you could see the smoke pouring out of the building. My heart stopped cold. My late husband's father had just received a job position that put him on the 103rd floor of the North tower. The first one hit. As I sat there watching the coverage I no longer was tired from being up until well after 3am. I sat there in shock attempting to absorb what was going on, not really hearing what was being reported. I just remember holding the phone to my ear in stunned silence.

It was as I was watching the coverage of the first building being hit that I saw, as I'm sure hundreds of thousands others saw, the second plane fly into view and hit the second of the Twin Towers. For the next several hours I sat there in the middle of my bed in stunned silence as I watched the events play out, live. Later in the afternoon I gathered up the courage to call my late-husband's father's cell no avail. I only received a recorded message telling me that service was unavailable at this time. I called his wife, who was still in Decatur, Georgia, having given birth to twin girls not but a few weeks before, she stayed in their home there until he was able to find a place for them to all move into. She had no news of him either. We grieved for him and so many other victims together, hundreds of miles apart. We kept the phone conversation short in case by some miracle he survived and tried to call.

I went to work as scheduled. The restaurant was empty all day sans a few customers here and there. We went down to a minimum staff and I stayed there in an effort to keep busy. Parts of me later wish I had not been the one to volunteer to stay. I spent part of that evening being interrogated by 'important officials'. See, I worked at the Ruby Tuesday that was just down the street from the Wal-Mart Home Offices, in Bentonville, Arkansas. There's not too many decent eating establishments nearby, at least not then, so it was an ideal easy place to get to. Traffic was also a bitch because there were lines for miles of persons attempting to get gas for their vehicles...and of course price gauging was rampant! Everyone was in fear of there being no gas by morning, so everyone was willing to pay $5-8 per gallon - I count myself fortunate that I was too broke to even attempt nonsense and I still had enough gas in my car to make it home & back to work, I'd wait until the lines weren't atrocious, at least. The gas prices went back down to the low $1.20 range again by morning, so I missed that expense. Back to my interrogation...It really wasn't more than a 20 minute conversation that left me feeling like a small pile of rubble. See, you have to understand, I really don't notice things like a person's skin color, private conversations, accents, the like...I'm not lying, I really don't, or didn't, since that day I've done a wee bit better about paying closer attention to folks, but nothing significant. My job was to serve food, refill drinks, and then clean-up afterward. If my customers engaged me in conversation I was polite, conversed, and went on my way. Over time I'd recognize regular customers, but most folks were only there for 30-45 minutes and I'd never see them again, to the tune of a hundred folks or more a day.

There was a particular table of two men that I waited on, they sat in a small booth, in the next booth sat another man who, from there side he was sitting on, was able to see these two men converse. According to the single man, the two men in the other booth spoke a foreign language, but their gestures & overall body language suggested to him that they were happy about the attacks of the morning. I know I waited on the two men, as I was the only server on duty for the non-smoking side of the establishment, but I honestly have no recollection of anything regarding them, not a few hours later, not now. I found out, just prior to being questioned by the officials, from my manager that the gentleman I'd complained about as being a crappy tipper & squatter, actually waited until the other men left, then followed them out. Apparently they were driving a white, unmarked van, with Canada tags.

I also found out the next day that the van was full of explosives, much like the ones used in the Oklahoma City Bombing, and the intended plan was to take out the Wal-Mart Home Office building...or maybe the elaborate satellite system that Wal-Mart has in that area...hearsay is a wonderful thing, isn't it? I was questioned because I had served these men and they'd been in the establishment, talking, for quite sometime. Again, I reiterate, I pay no attention, whatsoever, to someone else's private conversation, unless a word or phrase catches my attention. On Sept 11, 2001, nothing really caught my attention. I went through the motions of doing my job, I smiled, I was friendly, I did everything under the roof of that building to attempt to keep myself from watching any of the numerous televisions in the building.

I was interrogated nonetheless, I remember my manager making a huge deal out of it, telling me I needed to pay attention when such things were going on, or something to that general effect. Of course I told him the same things I told the officials, or told the officials the same things I'd told him. I had absolutely no clue, I didn't exactly remember serving them until I lined up the table number with the approximate time and went through my sales record. They ate some salads and drank tea...I recalled them because there had been some sort of issue with one of the salads, they were both polite, and had left me a fair tip - outside of that I had/have no clue.

Later that evening, as I was sitting in my bed, glued to the television, willing the phone to ring with news of my late-husband's father, I got a call from my (now) ex-husband, telling me that the bus schedule was completely out of whack, and he'd like for me to make the 8-hour drive out to Springfield, Missouri, to pick him up from the truck driving school. To which I obliged, after taking a very short nap. I made the drive out there, then made the drive back because he was drunk when I picked him up and slept the whole way back. I slept for a few hours at his place before driving the hour back to my place so I could get ready for work again the next morning.

My hopes of hearing anything about my late-husband's father dwindled down to near nothing as the hours ticked slowly by. Every hour I wasn't asleep from exhaustion I spent glued to a television set or going through the motions of doing my job.

At 8:49pm, September 15th I received the phone call. Hearing the voice of what should have been my (step)mother-in-law on the other end of the phone stopped my heart. She was hysterically crying and incoherently speaking. I was finally able to register the words she was trying to say. He was alive. Later I learned that he had come down with a stomach virus or food poisoning of some sort that rendered him unable to leave a bathroom for any length of time, so had missed work that particular morning. He also said it wasn't until the next morning that he even knew what had all transpired while he was sick & in bed, or the bathroom, as he was 'getting ready for work'. He'd flipped on the news, per his normal morning routine, and saw that he had no where to go to work. He'd relentlessly tried calling, but he was getting many of the same error messages we were getting.

I left out on the morning of the 18th to join the clean-up effort. I still cannot even think into words the impact that experience left me with. The images in my head haunt me to this day.

That is why it saddened and angered me as I was reading posts on Facebook upon the announcement that Osama bin Laden was confirmed dead, at the hands of United States Armed Forces.

Statuses such as :
"hopefully there won't be as much coverage about Osama as there was on Michael Jackson..." With a follow-up comment of "I watched it when I was about 11 but don't remember it hardly at all. "

Then others who, are older than myself even, so they definitely remember the day, posting that they won't believe it until they see his dead body, suggesting that President Obama and such are just lying about Osama's death. Of course they're the same persons who don't have enough faith in this country to verify that the President is actually legal to be President...Trump & Palin supporters to put it mildly.

Then of course you have the persons who are angry with President Obama for him being proud of this accomplishment...because it's, in their eyes, President W. Bush's victory, even though he was at the helm of the search for 7 years, but he was searching in caves & deserts, instead of the country, two countries away, where Osama was actually staying, in a mansion.

THOUSANDS of lives have been lost during this war that has been going on for nearly a decade now. More than half of that time we've been at war in the wrong country to even begin to search for Osama. Yes, we got Saddam Hussein, 20 years after the original war to find & destroy him had started, and almost 15 years since that particular war 'came to an end'.

This isn't an accomplishment to be taken lightly or for persons to fuss petty bullshit about. Real women, men, daughters, sons, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers all lost their lives in the efforts for this day to be seen. Others are now afflicted with lifelong handicaps - mental & physical - as a result of working towards seeing this day come about.

My own baby brother, although only 14 or so at the time of the attacks in this country, proudly worked his tail off to be able to serve as a Marine. He's had surgery on both his feet and a knee as a result of a roadside bomb that went off near his convoy while he was in Afghanistan. He was in the desert and mountains working to accomplish this goal, as his wife, another great Marine, was pregnant with their first child, on base, in Japan, and then North Carolina. He was only of the luckiest ones of his convoy to escape with only a few scars now to show for it and a second baby now on the way, just a year later.

But, as the world, and more specifically, citizens of the United States, rejoice and squabble at the news of Osama's death, Duke's job has not been declared done. At any given moment he could be called upon to make another trek into the deserts and mountains on the other side of the planet. He could potentially, again, miss the birth of one of his children, this time a daughter, as he fights to ensure that we are each able to safely see our own children come safely into this world.

I remember being completely overjoyed when my parents brought him home from the hospital, days after he was born. I was barely 5 years old but there was nothing so exciting as having a new baby brother to look after. When I became pregnant with my own children I was given great birthing stories from my mother, who endured four pregnancies and labors, without the aid of pain meds. The story of her pregnancy & delivery of Duke is nothing short of a miracle. By all rights he cheated death at birth. The placenta detached and pieces were being delivered prior to Duke making his appearance. By sheer luck or a miracle Duke was born without any other issues. The odds of him surviving were slim to none, if you go by the 'rules' of child birth, but he did it.

Mikeal completely idolizes his Uncle Duke. He'd do anything for or with Duke, happily. The part that makes me a 'bad' mommy or big sister is when the two of them are together I often confuse their names. I'll call Mikeal Duke and Duke Mikeal and I would fight to the death for either one of them. Truth be told, when I found out Duke was considering a military career I threw my hat in to join the military as well, I was denied though because I was a single mom at the time...I think the recruiter also wasn't terribly fond of me telling him I wanted to join because I wanted to be President and I thought that it'd only be fitting if I had some service experience on my resume. He's one of those hard-assed uptight Republicans that thinks a woman in office would be the worse thing to ever happen to this country, period, end of story.

I digress though. I'm at peace knowing that the mission to capture & kill Osama is now accomplished - only 8 years after someone claimed some mission in this pursuit to have been accomplished. However, it is with a heavy heart that I continue to move forward. My prayers and thoughts are with all the dedicated service men and women, both those still caught in this mess, and the families of those who have died as a result of this mess. May each of them be greeted with the respect and honor they each rightfully deserve and have earned.

♥ I love you Duker!!! ♥
((and Amanda))

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