As I sit here this morning scrolling through my news feed, I am left thinking about the four days changed the world for me and those that I love. Two of those dates are wonderful memories, the other two brought unimaginable anger and hatred for those who hated the United States enough to kill her citizens.
I will warn you that I probably will ramble a bit when I talk about the death of my brother, I don't speak of it often and when I do it comes out like a flood. I apologize in advance.
A New Wife
First, I want to get some positivity out in the world and talk about the two days that changed my world for the better. If you know me, these are probably just as predictable as the two days that shattered my world.
The day that I made Brittany my wife has to be the single event that sent my life in a positive direction. Britt is a far better woman than I deserve but for whatever reason, she still sticks by my side in spite of her deserving better.
A New Life
As stereotypical of a dad statement as this might be, the day that my son Liam came into the world not only changed my universe, but it also introduced me to the unconditional love of another human being. Watching Liam experience life through the most innocent of eyes gives me hope that mankind has not fallen to some dark place that there is no recovery from.
September 11th, 2001
I should probably preface the next section by telling you that I am not a violent man unless I feel it necessary. Please keep that in mind when I talk about my desire to kill those that have wronged this country that I love dearly.
The events of September 11th altered my life and many others in an instant. I personally had no plan to enlist in military service before I watched radicals pilot planes into high-value targets but the anger that I felt drove me to that decision. While my military service didn't include deployment to a war zone or high-speed training, I wanted to kill those responsible for attacking my country. In fact, I slightly envy those that had the opportunity to end the lives of America's enemies.
That said, I am grateful that I never saw combat as I feel that it would have left me with a weight on my shoulders that I am not totally convinced that I am capable of carrying. I am not suggesting that I am a weak individual, merely that the burden that many of those that I consider being better, stronger men than myself that entered the battlefield struggle with on a daily basis. Do I think that I would have been ineffective in conflict? Not in the least. I just that I know that I likely would have done things that would have left me a very different person than I am today.
I am forever grateful for those men and women that carry the weight of what they did to make enemies of America pay for the attack on our homeland in blood and bone.
Since it has become the social norm to tell the story of how you experienced 9/11, I guess I will bite. It isn't quite as vivid of a memory as my brother's death, but it is still rather clear.
We MacGyvered TVs To Watch The World Change
The morning of 9/11 I was sitting in a computer class, Mrs. Vallenta's CISCO II course, when she picked up the classroom phone and received the news. She quickly turned the classroom TV to the news and we saw the first tower billowing black smoke. She told us that the school had been locked down and we were to stay put until the administration staff knew more.
Then a second plane hit impacted the second tower. It was clear that this was an attack.
I felt my stomach sink as more details were shared by the news people. I became angry that a group of people had the audacity to attack my homeland. Who could have done this? Why? My mind was racing.
Mrs. Vallenta asked me and another student to go from classroom to classroom and rig up an antenna out of paperclips and whatever else we could find so that the entire school would be able to see the events real time. Most of the morning was spent stabbing an unfolded paperclip into the back of a TV on a rolling cart and either adjusting it till it displayed a suitable picture or finding other things like coat hangers or whatever else to boost the signal reception.
The most vivid memory of the day was the anger boiling inside me. I wanted to help even the score. Thousands died in that attack and I wanted to make sure that they paid for that.
The Death Of My Brother
If you watch my videos or pay attention to my right hand in photos, you might notice a black bracelet that is ever-present. I never take this bracelet off, it is always with me as a reminder of the greatest sacrifice that someone close to me has made.
On August 27th, 2011 my family experienced a loss that devastated us greatly. The death of SPC Michael C. Roberts, my youngest brother. I have never really shared my experiences that day until now.
I should probably lay out a bit of background before I recount the day that my family was notified of his death. Michael had reclassified from a commo job in the Army to Military police not long before he was killed in combat. Roughly three months prior to his death he had graduated training for his new job at Fort Leanord Wood and then was assigned to the 561st Military Police Company out of Fort Campbell, KY. Just as he arrived Michael was informed that he would be going on his second deployment overseas, this time to Afghanistan in the Kandahar province.
Sadly, life got in the way and my wife and I were not able to see him before he deployed, something that I regret greatly to this day. I was able to speak with him a couple of times while he was in country before his death, each time he was upbeat and positive about his experiences thus far.
The day that the DoD notified us of Michael's death is burned in my mind even more so than September 11th. My brother Brian and I were in my garage stripping a motorcycle that I had purchased to be parted out when my cell phone range. On the other end of the phone, I heard my mother's shaky voice requesting that we come over immediately. At that point, I didn't think too much about it and assumed that maybe my grandmother had passed away since she was at the ripe age of 90. Brian and I loaded up my dog Cooper into his 2004 Subaru STI and headed over to our parents' place.
I will never forget the black decommissioned herse that crossed our path just down the street from Mom and Dad's house or the comment that I made to my brother, "That's not good." I had no idea that my innocent joke held far more truth than I knew.
As soon as we pulled up into the driveway of our parents' house I noticed a small white Ford with government plates parked in the street. It was such a non-descript car that I almost didn't notice it. As soon as what I was seeing registered I recall saying "no" over and over as I approached the door.
The Moment When My Heart Broke
Just as I got to the door and reached for the handle my mother opened the door, her face contorted in emotional pain that I had never seen before and her eyes full of tears. Just behind her, an Army chaplain in his dress uniform stood up from the table that my family had eaten dinner at for as long as I could remember and my knees buckled. I thought this kind of thing only happened in movies, why was I unable to stand?
My mother caught me, "He's gone." she said in a broken, tear-filled voice. My world stopped. My heart broke. I wanted to kill.
Michael had been killed during a VBIED attack on the police sub-station that his unit was assigned to. Thankfully he was the only casualty of the attack, others had minor physical injuries but would be left with lasting psychological scars that they will carry through life.
While I may have lost a brother that day, I gained dozens of new brothers and sisters like Goodall, Robertson, Paesano, Overstreet, and many more. Does that make the loss hurt less? Nope, but it does make the burden of Michael's loss easier to carry for all of us.
What Days Have Altered Your World?
I want to know what days have altered your world. What events have changed your personal future so drastically for either the positive or the negative.
Dropping the words "Never forget" has become custom on 9/11 and I agree with that sentiment, but shouldn't we reflect on days like 9/11 that changed our storyline every day?
Thanks for the tears. You can really write well. And just so you know, at the age of 54, the day that Michael was killed has been thus far the worst day of my life also, September 11th was the scariest. And I have 4 happiest days.