It’s pre-dawn. I’m lying in my bed staring up at the ceiling, not able to go back to sleep with my mind going a mile a minute. Other than the entry controller, I’m the only one awake right now. I can hear steady breathing and a couple of people snoring softly. Every once and awhile I will hear someone murmur in their sleep or the rustling of bed sheets as someone repositions themselves. I’m scared and anxious, but I’m also excited. Today’s the day, the day that I have been looking forward to but also dreading. There is so much that I’m worried about. I can feel myself breaking into a cold sweat and getting sick to my stomach. One of my biggest worries is whether my family made the drive safely. I pray for my family to be safe and sound, that when I finally get to see them after what feels like forever they will all be smiling and give me hugs like they always do. My second worry is that I don’t mess up and embarrass myself. All of a sudden I have a thought: “Oh god, I hope that no one in my element messes up!” I can just see someone messing up and getting the TI knife hand as they get screamed at from a couple inches away from their nose and then getting put on their face. I cringe at the thought.
I can now see that it’s starting to get lighter outside, and I know that at any moment Reveille is going to start playing and jerk everyone awake. We are not allowed to leave our beds until it plays, but there is so much that I have to do that I risk it. I sit up and get out of bed, and as I make my way across the room, I can feel the cool floor, even through my socks. Once I’ve done what I need, I head back to my bed to put on my PT shoes, but before I can put them on, Reveille starts playing loudly and it makes me jump. Everyone starts jumping from their bed and jerking on their PT shoes. As I’m hurrying to put mine on, I think to myself, “I hate that song! I’m going to be so happy when I don’t have to be woken by it anymore.” I start to smile from the thought that this is one of the last times I’ll have to hear it shatter the morning silence. But then I remember that my tech school is right across the street and that I’ll be hearing it for the next thirteen weeks or so. Now I dread the thought of tech school mornings.
Now I need to check everyone’s beds and lockers. As I go down the line of lockers and bunk beds, I stop and say hi to everyone and make sure that they are well. I see if they have any questions or they need anything from me. Usually I have a couple of people who need me to help them with something, but not today. Everyone is too focused on what is happening today. We are all feeling the pressure. No one wants to be “That Guy” or in our case “That Girl.” We are finally going to see our loved ones after eight and a half weeks of being torn down and then built back up, learning how to work as a team, and trying not to kill each other in the process. Now we are airmen that can work together smoothly.
Everyone is ready, and everything is perfect in our bays. We go down the stairs to the patio to get into formation for the airmen’s run. Once we are in place, our TI yells out “Forward March!” We are on our way to the starting point to get lined up in the proper order for all the squadrons. The first flight starts to run in formation and sing jodies. Once we start running, I try to look for my family while also staying in step and sing the jody. We go around the bend that’s the half way marker for the run. Our TI gives us the signal that says we can sing the jody that our flight made up for this run. All of a sudden I hear someone scream “There’s my baby girl!” I look over and see my family, my mom, and my aunt sobbing with my dad and my baby brother gazing proudly. I know that it was my mom who screamed that out. I know that they see me, and I give them one of my biggest smiles.
We are soon done with the run, and we head back up to our bays to shower and change into our uniforms. Our TI tells us that we are to change into our ABU’s because it’s raining out and that the coin ceremony is going to be held on the patio underneath the overhang. We all celebrated because we didn’t have to be in our blues. I was also happy because it’s a pain in the ass to polish your blues shoes if they were wet, full of grass, and scuffed up. Whoever came up with shoes that looked like they were polished knew how much of a hassle polishing was.
Once we are all dressed and ready to go, we head down the stairs and form up. Our family and friends are sitting down watching as we each get our coins. They all look so proud and happy. It’s over before I even know it.
The parade begins the next day. When it started, I was so scared that I was going to be off step or take the wrong turn. Even though we have practiced so many times, and I know the right way to go and where to turn, I can’t help but think the worst.
We finally get through the parade without anything going wrong. Now we are swearing in. Soon it’s over, and I’ll finally get so see my family. I’m so excited that I’m shaking slightly and trying not to smile. I know that my parents are proud of me, and I can’t wait to tell them all about basic, even though they mostly knew what happened because I wrote to them at least once per week.
Ten minutes or so go by, but I don’t see them. Everyone around me has their family and friends with them. I’m starting to get anxious. “What if they can’t find me? What if they don’t recognize me?” Even though I know they saw me during the airmen’s run and the coin ceremony, I couldn’t help being a little worried. I started to get a little depressed. Then all of a sudden I see my mom running toward me, smiling and looking like she was about to cry. I could see how proud of me she was.
I’m glad that I joined the Air Force and graduated basic. I’m also ecstatic that I was able to graduate on my mom’s birthday—September 11th. She needed something good to happen on that day. Now she can celebrate a good anniversary, instead of thinking about what happened on that day in 2001. Now she can remember that I graduated basic today and feel a little happy and proud.
We are the first group of airmen to graduate on this fateful date. I will always remember 9/11. The day the twin towers fell and so many people lost their lives, but also the day my mom was born and I graduated basic.