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The day the towers collapsed in a jet-fueled blaze I wore a smart black business suit, skirt and jacket, with two inch high heels, silver earrings, chain necklace, and a bright blue silk blouse that made the color of my eyes pop. I had selected my attire thoughtfully that morning, an action for most of my past 20 years I’d never had to do. For nearly two decades I’d worn khaki each and every day, a non-color, a light shade of brown, a dark shade of tan, so indistinguishable I faded away blending into the background, bland and washed out. Some places I wore summer whites. In Maine I’d worn winter working blues. On special occasions I wore Service Dress Blues or Service Dress Whites with gold buttons down the front and gold stripes wrapped around each sleeve. But mostly I wore the khaki uniform, a short sleeved shirt that flattened my chest and trousers that camouflaged my waist but ballooned my hips, made of a synthetic material that some say melted when standing on the hot deck of an air craft carrier. I wouldn’t know about that. I mostly sat behind a desk throughout my Navy career.I was on the cusp of retirement from military service, teetering toward that other side, carrying a decision that weighed on me. For a week I was learning how to become a civilian, attending five days of mandatory classes to gain knowledge and insight of what it would be like in life beyond the structure I’d known for 20 years. Transition Training it was called. Learn how to become a ‘civvie’. One of our first requirements was to learn how to dress like one, to make a decision every day of what to wear. No more khaki. Khaki was ugly, but it was easy.On the second day, a Tuesday of my week long Transition Training, the towers fell. Someone ran into our classroom and shouted that fact. We all ran into another, larger, TV lounge just in time to see the second tower fall and to learn that a third plane had just careened into the Pentagon sixty miles north. We stared at the screen trying to comprehend what we were watching until finally, the Commanding Officer of our base ordered a shut down of non-essential activity and told the civilians to go home. The Transition Training ended.My home was 30 miles away. Without a chance to change I drove straight to my headquarters and bounded into the Operations Center. “Where have you been?” my boss demanded. “The country is under attack.” I stood in the darkened Ops Center as events unfolded on the huge monitors and television screens before us. The Admiral made phone calls to determine what role we would play. I stood in my smart business suit, bright blue silk blouse, with eyes popping, while enlisted sailors in blue denim bellbottoms and officers dressed in khaki buzzed all around.
Your piece gives a very personal take on that terrible day. To me it summed up the way so many people all around the world felt, inadequate and not ready to cope with such an act of terror. There you were incorrectly dressed, after all your years of service, facing a major crisis and you had dressed in the morning to fit into civilian life.
To me it was very interesting and very personal......well done!
Are you writing about your life in the Navy ?