VOICES: My heart still aches for our country and victims of the 9/11 attacks

Désirée Bouchat, a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, looks at photos of those who perished, in a display at the 9/11 Tribute Museum, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in New York. While Sept. 11 was a day of carnage, it also was a story of survival: Nearly 3,000 people were killed, but an estimated 33,000 or more people evacuated the World Trade Center and Pentagon. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Caption
Désirée Bouchat, a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, looks at photos of those who perished, in a display at the 9/11 Tribute Museum, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in New York. While Sept. 11 was a day of carnage, it also was a story of survival: Nearly 3,000 people were killed, but an estimated 33,000 or more people evacuated the World Trade Center and Pentagon. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Credit: Mark Lennihan

Credit: Mark Lennihan

Mark Striebich/Contributed
Caption
Mark Striebich/Contributed

Sept. 11, 2001 started as a typical day in my world as a special education teacher at Trotwood Madison High School.

My classroom, which was on the second floor of the school building, was humid, and that caused the students to get out of control. As always, I attempted to regain order in the class as part of my daily routine in helping the students make it through another school year. But my mood changed quickly when the principal knocked on the classroom door and asked me to not turn on the TV. The terrorist attacks had just occurred, and he thought images from the scenes were disturbing for the students.

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I was raised in a small river town of Bellaire, which is located in Eastern Ohio. My father was a WWII veteran, my uncle would become a “lifer” in the U.S. Army, my brother an Air Force veteran, and me.... I was drafted into the Army in September 1969, serving one year in Vietnam. Wearing the uniform was in my blood.

As a proud veteran, I was in no way prepared for what that knock on my classroom door would mean for me, for America, for the entire world. We were now about to enter another undeclared war, just like Vietnam.

The rest of that school day is mostly a blur to me, although I do remember my drive home. As I drove past the VA cemetery, I became deeply sad when I looked at all the headstones and thought about the families who had lost loved ones. Then my sadness started to subside as I grew more angry.

What could I, a 51-year-young veteran, do to help fix what had been done to our country? When I got home, I called a local Army recruiter to ask if my services were needed. He thanked me for wanting to help, but I had exceeded the age limit for enlisting in the military. I became sad again, knowing that there was nothing I could do to help my country after the terrorist attacks.

Father Time has taken away some memories, but the deep sadness I felt grew as time went on, and the reality of what happened set it. Seventy-eight countries fell victim to the terrorists, as nearly 3,000 humans died in the World Trade Center. Three thousand people went to work that day to never return to their loved ones. As an American, I was aghast at the thought that this could happen. How could these planes ever do such Luciferian deed?

Shortly after the attacks, our nation went on high alert, and Pres. Bush resolved to hunt down the mastermind of the evil act, Osama Bin Laden. We finally accomplished our mission on May 2, 2011. His death gave me and millions of people what we wanted. Sadly though, terrorism continues to thrive in the world. The fight of good vs. evil will sadly go on forever.

We were reminded of that when in August, 13 Americans lost their lives while doing their duty in Afghanistan.

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Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the horrific attacks on our nation. I still feel deep sadness for those thousands of people who lost brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children. As a proud Vietnam veteran, my heart continues to ache for America. It’s unlikely that I will ever forget that knock at my classroom door or my drive past the VA cemetery.

My local veterans’ group will have a gathering soon, and no doubt 9-11 will be discussed. Not a day goes by that I do not look at the tattoo on my left arm that reads, “9-11-01.”

God bless America, and may God continue to be there for the families of those who were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mark Striebich is a Vietnam veteran who recently retired from teaching after 45 years. He and his wife live in Fairborn.