BW Edit Hage, Jeff Mugshot.jpg

Why are our boys dying in Afghanistan?

That’s the question my Mom asked last Tuesday during my 35 minute commute home after a long day at the office.

My Mom didn’t remember, but that’s OK because she is suffering from early stages of dementia.

That’s why I called her Tuesday evening. My siblings and I take turns calling her twice each day reminding her to take her medications.

I explained that the United States has had a military presence in Afghanistan for 20 years and that presence began following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

My Mom seemed relieved that on Aug. 30, the United States removed all military forces from Afghanistan, effectively ended our nation’s longest war about two decades after it began.

She was also glad that “our boys” would no longer be dying in Afghanistan. I reminded her that women were serving in Afghanistan, as well, and a number had died in the suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul on Thursday, Aug. 26, along with about 90 residents of Afghanistan.

What made more of an impact on me was the sadness my Mom felt because she couldn’t remember why U.S. troops were in Afghanistan.

She said it was important. She should not have forgot.

I reminded her that she doesn’t remember what she used to. What she remembered five years ago isn’t what she remembers today.

On this one, she gets a pass.

Which brings us to me.

Everyone has that time in their lives when they remember where they were and what they were doing at the exact moment of a certain event.

For the older generation, it might be the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For others, it might be the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. For others yet, it might be when man first walked on the Moon on July 20, 1969. In my case, Pearl Harbor was a generation or two before my time. The Kennedy assassination came three weeks before I was born on Dec. 14, 1963. The first walk on the moon came when I was five years old.

That makes Sept. 11, 2001 the major event of my lifetime. I still can’t believe the attacks happened. Even after 20 years.

On Sept. 11, 2001, America, as we know it, changed forever. Without warning, terrorists shook us from our early morning routine. For me, that routine was the task of laying out six editions of The Press Citizen newspapers in Des Moines and its suburbs.

I was employed as the managing editor of a chain of 17 weekly newspapers and served as the direct editor of seven of those papers.

On Tuesdays I’d start work somewhere around 7:30 a.m.

On Sept. 11, 2001 I arrived at work about 7:40 a.m. My graphic artist Karen Ericcson arrived a few minutes earlier. For some unexplainable reason the newsroom television had been left on overnight Monday — that hardly ever happened.

As I was organizing the day’s work at about 7:50 a.m. I looked up at the TV screen and CNN was reporting a fire on what appeared to be the roof of one of the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center.

I called Karen over to take a look because the fire seemed kind of bizarre. Nobody knew what was going on in New York yet.

As we watched the report of this fire the unthinkable occurred. We watched LIVE on TV as the second of two hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.

Karen and I were numb. Dumbfounded. Absolutely in shock.

We weren’t sure what we just witnessed on live television but in the minutes to follow the anchors on CNN flushed out the story.

That fire in the World Trade Center tower was no fire at all, I would learn. It was the carnage of the airplane that had crashed into the first tower. The second crash left Karen and I horrified, if not terrified.

Sept. 11 stirs up lots of memories. One is that special bond I share with Karen.

It was a traumatic experience for me to watch live the hijackers crashing the second plane into the building and killing everyone on board the plane and many others working in the buildings.

It was a day that I really started paying attention to people referred to as terrorists. I became familiar with words like Al-Qaeda and became familiar with the name Osama bin Laden.

The week of Sept. 11, 2001 was by far the most emotional of my newspaper career.

For a week I went to community rally after community rally covering the stories of people mourning — whether it be Des Moines, South Des Moines, East Des Moines and the suburban cities of Altoona, Pleasant Hill, Carlisle and Norwalk.

Through the lens of my camera I captured entire communities breaking down and crying. With my pen and paper in hand I had the privilege to tell many of their stories.

It was also the week I learned the true meaning of hero and was proud to honor the firemen and policemen of my communities through the pages of my newspapers.

I still think that today. It sometimes seems we have now forgotten about the hero status we placed upon firemen and police officers back in 2001. We shouldn’t.

I will never forget that Tuesday morning, the emotions shared with coworkers that day, and the tears shared at home that evening. The images of those we lost as they leaped from the towers are forever etched in my mind.

Take time Saturday to remember that terrible day, the sacrifices and heroism of our nation, and the senseless loss of nearly 3,000 lives.

I know I will.

Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times and the Union-Times of Princeton and Milaca. Reach him by email at jeff.hage@apgecm.com.

Why are our boys dying in Afghanistan?That’s the question my Mom asked last Tuesday during my 35 minute commute home after a long day at the office.My Mom didn’t remember, but that’s OK because she is suffering from early stages of dementia.That’s why I called her Tuesday evening. My siblings and I take turns calling her twice each day reminding her to take her medications.I explained that the United States has had a military presence in Afghanistan for 20 years and that presence began following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.My Mom seemed relieved that on Aug. 30, the United States removed all military forces from Afghanistan, effectively ended our nation’s longest war about two decades after it began.She was also glad that “our boys” would no longer be dying in Afghanistan. I reminded her that women were serving in Afghanistan, as well, and a number had died in the suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul on Thursday, Aug. 26, along with about 90 residents of Afghanistan.What made more of an impact on me was the sadness my Mom felt because she couldn’t remember why U.S. troops were in Afghanistan.She said it was important. She should not have forgot.I reminded her that she doesn’t remember what she used to. What she remembered five years ago isn’t what she remembers today.On this one, she gets a pass.Which brings us to me.Everyone has that time in their lives when they remember where they were and what they were doing at the exact moment of a certain event.For the older generation, it might be the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For others, it might be the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. For others yet, it might be when man first walked on the Moon on July 20, 1969. In my case, Pearl Harbor was a generation or two before my time. The Kennedy assassination came three weeks before I was born on Dec. 14, 1963. The first walk on the moon came when I was five years old.That makes Sept. 11, 2001 the major event of my lifetime. I still can’t believe the attacks happened. Even after 20 years.On Sept. 11, 2001, America, as we know it, changed forever. Without warning, terrorists shook us from our early morning routine. For me, that routine was the task of laying out six editions of The Press Citizen newspapers in Des Moines and its suburbs.I was employed as the managing editor of a chain of 17 weekly newspapers and served as the direct editor of seven of those papers.On Tuesdays I’d start work somewhere around 7:30 a.m.On Sept. 11, 2001 I arrived at work about 7:40 a.m. My graphic artist Karen Ericcson arrived a few minutes earlier. For some unexplainable reason the newsroom television had been left on overnight Monday — that hardly ever happened.As I was organizing the day’s work at about 7:50 a.m. I looked up at the TV screen and CNN was reporting a fire on what appeared to be the roof of one of the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center.I called Karen over to take a look because the fire seemed kind of bizarre. Nobody knew what was going on in New York yet.As we watched the report of this fire the unthinkable occurred. We watched LIVE on TV as the second of two hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.Karen and I were numb. Dumbfounded. Absolutely in shock.We weren’t sure what we just witnessed on live television but in the minutes to follow the anchors on CNN flushed out the story.That fire in the World Trade Center tower was no fire at all, I would learn. It was the carnage of the airplane that had crashed into the first tower. The second crash left Karen and I horrified, if not terrified.Sept. 11 stirs up lots of memories. One is that special bond I share with Karen.It was a traumatic experience for me to watch live the hijackers crashing the second plane into the building and killing everyone on board the plane and many others working in the buildings.It was a day that I really started paying attention to people referred to as terrorists. I became familiar with words like Al-Qaeda and became familiar with the name Osama bin Laden.The week of Sept. 11, 2001 was by far the most emotional of my newspaper career.For a week I went to community rally after community rally covering the stories of people mourning — whether it be Des Moines, South Des Moines, East Des Moines and the suburban cities of Altoona, Pleasant Hill, Carlisle and Norwalk.Through the lens of my camera I captured entire communities breaking down and crying. With my pen and paper in hand I had the privilege to tell many of their stories.It was also the week I learned the true meaning of hero and was proud to honor the firemen and policemen of my communities through the pages of my newspapers.I still think that today. It sometimes seems we have now forgotten about the hero status we placed upon firemen and police officers back in 2001. We shouldn’t.I will never forget that Tuesday morning, the emotions shared with coworkers that day, and the tears shared at home that evening. The images of those we lost as they leaped from the towers are forever etched in my mind.Take time Saturday to remember that terrible day, the sacrifices and heroism of our nation, and the senseless loss of nearly 3,000 lives.I know I will.

Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times and the Union-Times of Princeton and Milaca. Reach him by email at jeff.hage@apgecm.com.

Editor

Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

Load comments