Stationed overseas watching 9/11 unfold

On 9/11/2001 I was a Navy lieutenant stationed in Okinawa Japan. I was a doctor fresh out of residency and Okinawa was my first duty station. On this day, a typhoon was bearing down on the little island of Okinawa and all American military members were ordered into lock-down - we were not allowed to leave our homes unless we were on duty in which case we were not allowed to leave the Naval hospital. I was not on duty so I was home in my little Japanese apartment with my cat, waiting for for the typhoon to be over. I was lucky enough to still have electricity so my I sat on my tatami mat watching endless hours of TV, mostly the American shows that were piped in to overseas bases on American Forces Network. There was breaking news and images of the first tower having been hit was shown. As the news reporters were discussing whether the plane had lost control or if something more sinister had occurred, I watched as the second plane hit and they had their answer.

My fiancée, now husband of almost 20 years, was stationed in Yokosuka Japan.

I remember trying desperately to reach him on the phone for hours after watching the events unfold on TV. I know its completely irrational, but I feared something terrible had happened to him because of the horror that was occurring half a world away. Finally I reached him. He had just finished seeing a movie at the theater and had no idea what was occurring back home!

The other memory I have of this time period is that the next morning, as the skies cleared from the typhoon, I had a knock on my door. It was my landlord and his school aged daughter. They lived downstairs from me. My landlord did not speak English but his daughter was learning it in school. They had come to tell me how sorry they were for what had happened in America and to ask if my family was safe. That small act of kindness in that moment meant so much to me, being alone a half world away from my family, and still makes me emotional 20 years later thinking about it.

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