This day

Author's note:  This post was written one year ago today, during the frenzy of the primary campaign for the 4th Barnstable District.  In the middle of composing it, I inadvertently posted it instead of saving it.  When finished, I had something more personal than originally intended, and decided not to publish it then.  But when I was informed that the first part of it was already "live" online, I chose to withdraw that section and save the entirety for another time.

Except for a breeze and a stray puffy cloud or two, the weather today eerily reminds me of five years ago.

My in-laws were in the middle of a visit from Austria at the time, and had gone to Six Flags a couple days before.  While there, the light attendance made me remark about it to the gate attendant.  She replied that the economy really seemed to be slowing down.  So there was a little foreboding in the autumn air.

In the summer, the Board of Selectmen in Chatham meet every two weeks, and I had convinced the Chair to allow evening meetings to see if this would increase attendance.  This was pre-televised meetings, after all.  Almost no one knew what went on down in our basement at the Town Offices until Tim Wood wrote about it in the Chronicle.

Not fully realizing that we had gone back on our weekly schedule, I had talked about making plans to take my wife and in-laws down to New York on the train.  As a commercial fisherman, I wanted to visit the Fulton Fish Market, where much of our Cape product ends up.  My father-in-law, Emil, a lover of all things seafood, said he'd enjoy seeing it, too.

So the day-trip to Manhattan on Tuesday was just about set, with us arriving into Penn Station just before 9 AM.  But when I looked at the train times and saw we had a Selectmen's meeting at 4 PM, and I knew this was cutting it too close.  We cancelled.  Instead, I would stay behind to work and they would go to Plimoth Plantation.

Needless to say, like everyone, we spent the morning watching the news. 

I traced on a map where Penn Station is and where the Fulton Fish Market was.  Knowing that we all like to walk a lot  in cities, and we probably would have stopped off along the way to see the World Trade Center.  It was very clear that we would have been at Ground Zero or close to it at the worst possible time.

Before the day was even half over, my wife and I were talking about wanting to do something.  I think that's how we all felt at the time.  We were wanting to do more, to sacrifice, to help.

Every time I take people on the tour of the State House, I bring them past the bust of Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.  Our U.S. Senator in World War II, he resigned his office to become a tank commander in Europe.  A noble and decent gesture considering that it was his grandfather who blocked the U.S. entry to the League of Nations following World War I.

That sort of action-matching-the-rhetoric never fails to inspire me.  My hero, Teddy Roosevelt, was better known for his sacrifice prior to Lodge's, when he resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form the Rough Riders for service in Cuba during the Spanish American War.

So, the agreement I made with my wife was simple:  One or the other of us would join the service and see who would be of greater value.  Whichever that was, the other would support their decision.

But I learned that, having had my 35th birthday the previous May, I was five months too old to join anything.  So it fell to her.  Ironically, the day she was signing up in Boston, I got a call from a National Guard recruiter saying I could join up to age 36.

She shipped out to Basic on January 1 and graduated in March.  Her stationing in Germany in May meant it was only a matter of time, so I tendered my resignation from the Board of Selectmen, effective one year to the day of my election.  At the time, I said this was our way of saying thanks to the firefighters and police who had given so much.

My travel papers as a military spouse came through about a month and a half later.  I gave up my home, my job and my office to go into junior enlisted housing with all the other families of the 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden.

Sofie was born over there.  I learned a great deal of how the military operates, and was exposed to the European health care system.  Being in Europe during the invasion of Iraq was especially informative for my world view.  And I returned a single father, to the best place I could raise my daughter.  A safe place.

So if people ask me how my life was changed by the events of five years ago, I have an answer.

I wasn't out pounding on doors today.  It just didn't seem right to be campaigning this day.  Instead, I dropped into the Chatham Fire Station to say hi.  When I did, I saw the flag had gotten a little tangled up.  So Roy Eldredge came out, and while we talked a little, he set it straight.

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