I was a child (at the time of) the attack of 9/11, but I can remember coming down the stairs with socks in my hand, ready for school, and seeing my dad sitting on the arm of the chair, as there was no time (for him) to make it to the seat.
His face was blank but said everything he was thinking.
Little did I know that, years later, this event would bring the loss of my brother, Cpl. Michael Pursel, KIA, May 6, 2007. My whole life has been military -- military family, parents, boyfriend and friends.
You would hope and think that everyone's lives have changed in one way or another since the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, but for some of those ignorant people, they have not. For me, the change of having a sibling gone for the rest of my life, the thought of never growing up (with him) or having barbecues that my children would play with their uncle is never going to happen. I'll never be able to call my brother for support emotionally, physically or for any other reason.
I've thought, if 9/11 didn't happen, Mike would still be here. Watching my mom stand in uniform at the loss of a child, that's one thing in life that should never happen, burying your child. I can't even visit his grave, other than a few times a year, because he's buried in Arlington, Va.
Some of the biggest changes: hearing "Taps" and a chill goes up my spine, seeing an American flag on someone's car, outside of their house, or just in the parking lot of a store. I get a feeling of pride and sadness at the same time. When someone who is military-oriented sees the bracelet on my wrist and they say, "I'm sorry for your loss, thank you," I fight back the tears, even if it's just one.
I make sure to thank soldiers I see coming home in the airport, because I don't know that feeling of having someone come home, (except) in a casket with the flag draped over.
At football games, ceremonies, or other events, I have anger for those who don't stop talking, stand, or remove their hats as I put my hand over my heart and hear every sound beat run through my body, as if it were my own blood keeping me alive.
For protesters, the difference is that they stand outside the death of a soldier, saying it's God's punishment, whereas if anyone in their family died from anything, even drugs, we would never stand outside theirs, shouting hurtful things. The death of a soldier gave them the right to protest; the death of someone from an everyday tragedy, like a car accident, is also sad but is not a sacrifice like that of the soldier, a life given to protect the freedom of our citizens.
When I would sit in class watching a 9/11 video, and cry without shame, people and friends around me could do nothing but sit and watch me let it out. Most of whom couldn't say anything, because they didn't know what to say, because there isn't anything to say.
These are just a few ways that my life has changed. For military families, the understanding of 9/11 is a little different, but for those few civilians who understand the value of soldiers, freedom, and this land ... I thank them, too.
-- Katelyn Pursel