I can remember being on that plane, the plane back to Long Island, New York, the day after saying goodbye to incredible times. After serving four years in the Military, when 9/11 took place, hearing about the term stop loss and being briefed about the possibilities of seeing combat; it was something I probably will never experience again in my life. These were the years I saw myself mature as a teenager, years I will never forget.
I was tossing and turning in my seat as I couldn’t stop thinking this was my last flight out of anchorage, Alaska. Alaska had become my new home for over 3yrs, as Elmendorf Afb would welcome a young 18 yr old far from the eastern part of the country who had never experienced such a place before. The day before my flight, I was saying goodbye to my friends; friends that had become family to me, friends that I have experienced so much with while in the Air Force. Flash backs of great times we shared replayed in my mind over and over, from the times of meeting up at The Kashim Club to the times of camping out in the great Alaskan outdoors. We had so many great moments working and hanging out with one another, I wondered if it would ever be the same without these guys close by.
We came from all over the U.S., from New York, California, Missouri, New jersey, Washington, Florida, Alaska, Iowa, Montana and among other states. I sat there in my uncomfortable South West seat, laughing, looking back at some of the guys and girls I had met from all over. Laughing, because I had learned so much about them and how life was like for them growing up in these different parts of the U.S. and yet I was just a naive teenager that thought life wasn’t nearly as good as it is growing up here in New York. The stories we shared with each other about our hometowns differed in so many ways, that I had kin of wished I got a taste of what it would be like growing up in a small town far away from the city atmosphere.
As time continued to trickle away ever so slowly I decided to forget about sleeping and just let my mind reflect back to my years in the military that I was leaving behind. I remember sitting at post performing entry duties to a high priority location early in the morning. It was around 5am when I received a call from my friend who was on the same shift as me. When I answered the phone he quickly cut me off while I was trying to say hello, to tell me to turn on the radio, because their is announcements everywhere talking about planes hitting The World Trade Center in N.Y.C. I didn’t believe it at first and told him “whatever we’re almost done with work, quit with the jokes”, until the radio station came in clear and sure enough announcements were everywhere saying America is being attacked.
I hung up on my friend and quickly dialed out to my parents back home in New York, asking what was going on. I remember hearing in my parents voices how scared they were about what was taking place in our city; the city where my godmother travels by bus and train everyday for work. Then my hand held radio went off with an announcement that those of us who were to be relieved for duty by the oncoming shift will have to stand by at the squadron and stay armed.
Suddenly my thoughts were redirected to the announcement on the planes intercom, saying to buckle up to prepare for landing. As the plane touched down on the runway I remember feeling great that I had finally reached home, but I was also feeling unsure about being back home. I knew life back home wasn’t the same as it was when I had left, and I knew I was no longer that young 18 nervous kid with at least a plan in life. I was about to start all over again, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the memories of Alaska became overtaken by the thoughts of “Am I ready to be a civilian again”?