Mom is our guest blogger today.

Like most Americans, for me last week’s September 11 anniversary brought back a flood of memories.  I was working out at the Y when I heard the news, and my family was scattered: my husband, Charlie, was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with his mother; daughter Courtney was in her senior year at UGA, in Athens; and son Sanford was a freshman at Washington & Lee, in Lexington, Virgina.  We were all frightened and outraged by the terrorists’ actions.

But our youngest son, Howard, was particularly upset by 9/11.  A high school junior, he spent that awful day watching TV news coverage with his classmates.  He was shocked that our nation’s security could be so easily breached and concerned that the terrorists would strike again.

Normally, Howard’s world revolved around basketball, soccer, Scouts and school.  He was 6’3”, a green-eyed, dishwater blonde who loved sports and having fun.  On Sept. 11, 2001, he was a week short of his 17th birthday and starting to visit colleges.  He hadn’t really given his future much thought, but after seeing our nation’s response to the fall of the towers, he began mulling a career in law enforcement.

A good student, in the spring of his senior year Howard was offered scholarships to two small liberal arts colleges in Virginia   Just when his Dad and I thought he was ready to decide between the two, Howard asked if he might make one final college visit to the University of Mississippi.  Ole Miss, as it is affectionately called, is located in Oxford, a 12 hour drive from our home, and has a political science/criminal justice major that Howard thought could be a stepping stone to law school and eventually his ultimate goal, the FBI.  The visit went well and the beautiful southern co-eds Howard met on campus probably influenced his decision as much as the sought-after course of study.

During his freshman year at Ole Miss, Howard aced history and political science and made the Dean’s List both semesters.  He played intramural sports, lifted weights and loved to hike. He was a happy 19 year old who appeared to be well on his way to a bright future. But then, one week into his sophomore year, Howard’s fraternity house burned down, taking his life and that of two other young men.  Howard was three weeks shy of 20 when he died.

Now when I hear Kenny Chesney’s song “Who You’d Be Today,” I can‘t help but be wistful for what might have been.

Sunny days seem to hurt the most

I wear the pain like a heavy coat

I feel you everywhere I go

I see your smile, I see your face

I hear you laughing in the rain

Still can’t believe you’re gone

It ain’t fair you died too young

Like a story that had just begun

The death tore the pages all away

God knows how I miss you

All the hell that I’ve been through

Just knowing no one could take your place

Sometimes I wonder who you’d be today

Would you see the world?

Would you chase your dreams?

Settle down with a family?

I wonder, what would you name your babies?

Some days the sky’s so blue

I feel like I can talk to you

And I know it might sound crazy …

As your Mom, I can’t stop thinking about who you’d be today.  Happy 26th birthday, Howard.

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