Photo by Michelle RattingerAlmost ten years ago on Sept 11, 2001 USS John C. Stennis was conducting routine flight operations off the balmy coast of Southern California when our lives were instantly shattered.
On that gray September day, I woke up like any other, switched on the remote to see whether my Braves still remained on top of the Major Leagues and whether the Chargers would start Drew Brees or Doug Flutie as quarterback.
Strange, I thought, as I started my morning ritual of shaving, brushing and dressing. One of the twin towers was hit by an errant airplane. What kind of idiot would do that?
In the wardroom, I polished up my eggs and bacon while participating in the obligatory morning gossip with friends. How were the Padres doing?
When I arrived, my entire division of three journalists and a Senior Chief were horrified by what was on the news. The second tower was now ablaze and the sky all around southern Manhattan was filled with a huge plume of smoke. For the first time in a while, I started to cry. As expected, we would not be heading home that day. Our ship was assigned to watch over the skies of Southern California as part of Operation Noble Eagle.
Less than two months later, the 5,000 plus Sailors and Marines as part of the USS Stennis, Carrier Air Wing 9 and the Destroyer Squadron battle group would be heading towards the epicenter to hunt for Bin Laden and to destroy the Taliban.
We came really close to getting him. We believed that he was hiding in the rugged mountains of Tora Bora. F-14 and F/A-18 jets from Carrier Air Wing 9 attacked the Taliban stronghold in Tora Bora -- the Taliban forces was obliterated, but Bin Laden was no where to be found -- he had gotten away.
That is why, when I got home tonight after studying hard with classmates at George Washington University, I was shocked beyond words. What happened? Did DC finally win a professional championship?
It all started with jubilant students from George Washington, Georgetown, AU, George Mason, Maryland, Howard et al., who flocked to the White House to celebrate the good news. Despite it being finals week, no exam was as significant as real world events happening literally in front of us. Broadcast TV aired the amazing footage and social media gave it the spark to go viral.
I was overjoyed by the fact that Americans and tourists from all over were out celebrating in front of the White House. People had stormed Lafayette Square as if it was V-J day all over again.
"USA, USA!" they chanted. People had climbed trees, waving flags, singing the National Anthem. Jubilant fans were hanging out windows, hollering "God Bless America." Many were still in sports jerseys embracing perfect strangers. They had stepped out of a Washington Capitals playoff game loss and would be out here celebrating till the wee hours of the night.
I was proud to see so much patriotism and love for our country displayed by our younger generation -- the generation that were just kids a decade ago-- the generation that will be around holding our flag a lot longer than the rest of us during this tumultuous, event-filled century.Despite having a busy day ahead of me, I had to physically be in front of the White House to witness history been made. Everything else took second fiddle. This was our version of the falling of the Berlin Wall. Would it mark a pivotal moment in history where freedom would advance and al-Qaeda would be defeated?
Dialogue with San Diego Union Tribune reporter who queried me re: the rally outside the White House.