On September 11, 2001 Pop and I were home watching television like the rest of America. I was watching in my room and he was at his television in the den. When I finally emerged from my room to go talk to him I saw him sitting in his chair, tears rolling down his face. I sat down and talked to him – actually I didn’t talk, I listened.
“Damn it Dorothy don’t you see? We saved the world from these people in the 40s and now they are back. They are trying to ruin my country. And I have done this already. And I am tired. And don’t they know this is the best country in the world? And the worst part? There is no one to get drunk and call.”
He repeated that sentiment to me several times over the next couple of days. I nodded, understanding, tears streaming down my face. When he finally told someone else that there was “no one to get drunk and call” they turned to me. “What is he talking about? No one to get drunk and call? I don’t get it.”
I replied, crying, “When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 Pop was at Cornell University living in his fraternity house – Zeta Psi. When they heard the news they got drunk and tried to call the Emperor of Japan – Hirohito – collect. They just wanted to yell at someone and figured they should go straight to the source. He is upset because he wants to blame someone and yell at someone and he can’t.” My friend looked at me like I was crazy but it made perfect sense to me.
The next day Pop and one of his few WWII friends went to the recruiting offices in Denton to re-enlist. They explained to the Navy (Pop) and Marine (his friend) recruiters that they had already saved the world once and these guys were too young and didn’t know what they were doing. After they convinced the recruiters that they weren’t kidding they were told that they were too old. Pop’s response? “Well fine. I am too old. Then you go and I’ll stay here and make coffee.”
I was fortunate in that I didn’t know anyone personally who was in New York or Washington D.C. that day. But what I will always remember is not watching the destruction of that horrible day but me watching him watch. It was heartbreaking.