Leslie Perales Remembers 9/11
Perales' brother was three days from graduating from USMC bootcamp in California at the time of the attacks.
• Editor's note: If you've been following Herndon Patch for a while you know I don't normally write about myself, but as I discussed 9/11 with others I was encouraged to share my own experience.
I woke up the day after my 16th birthday to find everyone sitting in the living room eyes wide open, staring at the television. I grew up in Michigan, but my dad, stepmother and I were visiting relatives in Phoenix before heading to California to watch my brother Andrew graduate from Marine Corps boot camp.
When he told us roughly a year before that he wanted to join the military after graduation we consoled ourselves with the phrase, "At least it's during a time of peace." That comforting thought we had disappeared quickly that day.
For his Sept. 14, 2001 USMC graduation, we had to go to a dirt parking lot for inspection and clearance, and were taken by bus to Camp Pendleton. Everything was shut down and we were whisked back off base as graduation ended. The next couple days were filled with anxiety as our family tried to make sure we could get flights back home. Andrew was not allowed to travel back home in uniform, and had to wear the one dirty, musty set of clothing he went to boot camp in.
I was a naïve teenager. I remember feeling confused and thinking, “Why would anyone do this?” I’d never heard of Al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. The only terrorist attacks I knew of were ones learned about in history class, or the Oklahoma City Bombing.
My brother was my best friend growing up and I was afraid for him. We worried he’d be shipped to the Middle East as soon as he finished his training. We were lucky. He only ever spent six months overseas, mostly in Kuwait, in 2003 and was never deployed again.
"Lucky" may not even cover it. My brother was in communications and computer systems. He helped keep the Internet communications, what they referred to as "the gateway," running for the U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq, so he was online often and we talked to him over instant messenger.
My awareness of the world outside America, the U.S. military and what those in the armed forces, police and fire departments go through both on a daily basis and on a large scale, grew quickly after 9/11. I still worry. And I can't watch a member of the military come home to their family without crying. I tear up just thinking about it.
Patch's more than 850 editors across the country spoke to people in their communities about how 9/11 impacted them. There are 911 profiles as part of the project, creating a broad range of experiences and memories. To see them all, click here.