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Excerpt from "Honeymoon in Baghdad"

When I got home, I found Heather curled up in the taco chair, a box of Kleenex in her hands, tears rolling down her face, while the television spooled through those endless clips of the first plane hitting the tower. There are moments where the brain struggles to catch up with the reality in front of it. I got as far as, “What’s wrong?” before the second plane hit, and something in my stomach lurched.

“Sit down and watch,” Heather mustered, and thrust a handful of tissues at me. We sat like that for hours, watching the chaos and the carnage, the planes hitting the towers over and over again, each time certain that they had to miss, that this couldn’t be real. And then watching on-the-street interviews with ash-covered first responders, seeing the bodies pulled from the rubble, the families searching for their missing loved ones. We all remember what that day was like. We all remember the way the grief seemed to swell and burst and swell again, waves of fear and rage. How could this happen to us? To the United States of America?

After a while, there was just rage.

I couldn’t understand how this had happened. I couldn’t imagine who these people could be, these psychopaths out to scar the greatest country in the world. It felt like waking up to realize that the villains of your childhood were somehow real, and that true evil was capable of hijacking an airplane. I can’t remember a time that I’ve ever been angrier.

Everyone knew that we couldn’t let this attack go unanswered. War was coming. It was only a matter of time.

The weekend after 9/11, my unit met for a drill. I drove up to Laramie the night before, a chaotic bundle of nerves and fury and uncertainty. Was this the weekend that we’d be called up? I wanted to go—I wanted to strike swiftly and decisively, to unleash the same chaos and carnage on our enemies—but war is dangerous, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent some of that week in a cold sweat over dying in some foreign desert.