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Inappropriately Dressed - The Day the Towers Fell

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    The day the
towers collapsed in a jet-fueled blaze I wore a smart black business
suit, skirt and jacket, with two inch high heels, silver earrings,
chain necklace, and a bright blue silk blouse that made the color of
my eyes pop.  I had selected my attire thoughtfully that morning,
an action for most of my past 20 years I’d never had to
do. For nearly two decades I’d worn khaki each and every
day, a non-color, a light shade of brown, a dark shade of tan, so
indistinguishable I faded away blending into the background, bland and
washed out. Some places I wore summer whites. In Maine
I’d worn winter working blues. On special occasions I wore
Service Dress Blues or Service Dress Whites with gold buttons down the
front and gold stripes wrapped around each sleeve. But mostly I
wore the khaki uniform, a short sleeved shirt that flattened my chest
and trousers that camouflaged my waist but ballooned my hips, made of
a synthetic material that some say melted when standing on the hot
deck of an air craft carrier. I wouldn’t know about
that. I mostly sat behind a desk throughout my Navy career.

 

           
I was on the cusp of retirement from military service, teetering
toward that other side, carrying a decision that weighed on
me. For a week I was learning how to become a civilian, attending
five days of mandatory classes to gain knowledge and insight of what
it would be like in life beyond the structure I’d known for 20
years. Transition Training it was called. Learn how to
become a ‘civvie’. One of our first requirements was
to learn how to dress like one, to make a decision every day of what
to wear. No more khaki. Khaki was ugly, but it was easy.

 

          On
the second day, a Tuesday of my week long Transition Training, the
towers fell. Someone ran into our classroom and shouted that
fact. We all ran into another, larger, TV lounge just in time to
see the second tower fall and to learn that a third plane had just
careened into the Pentagon sixty miles north. We stared at the
screen trying to comprehend what we were watching until finally, the
Commanding Officer of our base ordered a shut down of non-essential
activity and told the civilians to go home. The Transition
Training ended.

 

          
My home was 30 miles away. Without a chance to change I drove
straight to my headquarters and bounded into the Operations
Center. “Where have you been?” my boss
demanded. “The country is under attack.” I stood
in the darkened Ops Center as events unfolded on the huge monitors and
television screens before us. The Admiral made phone calls to
determine what role we would play. I stood in my smart business
suit, bright blue silk blouse, with eyes popping, while enlisted
sailors in blue denim bellbottoms and officers dressed in khaki buzzed
all around.
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