As a military wife, you know there is a possibility of one day looking out the window and seeing an official-looking car pull up to your house. You disregard this thought immediately, but it never really goes away.
On May 20, 2009, I woke up as I do every day. It was 6:47 a.m. and my son bounded into my room asking for Tom and Jerry. Normally, I go straight to my recorded programs and push play. But on this morning, the news greeted me with a photo of a Seahawk helicopter. And I knew from that moment on, I would never be the same again. There was a chance Greg was flying that helicopter. There was a chance one of his friends was. In my gut, I knew it was more than a chance.
I started to shake. The reporter was mumbling something about the USS Nimitz. My shaking became almost uncontrollable. I checked my Blackberry. An email from the XO’s wife: “There has been an accident.”
On wobbly legs, I managed to make my way down to the computer. And there it was. An email from Greg confirming what I thought I knew was true. The email read, "off to go fly. I love you and will write more when I land.” There was no other email from him. He took off at 8 p.m. The news was reporting the crash occurred around 11:30 p.m. on the 19th. I threw up.
I called his best friend, also a helo pilot.
“I’m on my way,” was all I remember Mark saying to me. And Jara was coming too. I remember thinking, Oh my God, is this really happening?
I went to my window.
The window I sit in front of every day and craft documents for my clients. The window I peer out of to see if my neighbors are home. The window that tells me when my husband is home safe for the night. Today, the window represented something more. It was the one thing between me and a car pulling into my driveway. Shaking, I would peer through the blinds to see if they were here.
That morning, I vacillated between complete hysteria and total normalcy. I fed my children breakfast calmly, and as they ate, I went outside and out of earshot to pray/scream to God that this wasn’t happening.
I looked at my best friends and screamed “this can’t be happening, Greg can swim. He would swim!” And Jara said to me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen, “sometimes they can’t swim.” And she knows; she’s a helo pilot too. I sobbed, I shook and then I played with my children. Vacillating once again between hysteria and normalcy.
As the morning wore on, calls were fielded and additional information came trickling in, we began to realize it wasn’t Greg flying the aircraft. We learned only later that he had landed safely; and as he was leaving the flight deck yelled to his buddies in Indian 617 to “Fly safe. I’ll see you in the morning.” This was the last time he would see his friends again.
Sitting at my desk, staring out my window, the call came in. In the same breath, I found out it wasn’t my husband that was flying, rather his close friend, roommate and mentor. The vomit rose in my throat. It wasn’t Greg, but it was Eric. It was unthinkable. Eric has a wife and three children under three, with the youngest a three-week-old daughter. I wanted to throw up again.
And so here I sit, one year later, penning this blog looking out my window remembering the morning our lives changed forever. The fear of “what if” for me is a reality for the five families who lost loved ones that tragic night. The pain we feel is a mere fraction of what the families of Eric, Allison, Grant, Aaron and Sean endured and continue to endure every day. We remember. And we mourn.