Angela Holmes shares the powerful story of the day she woke up in a hospital bed on a military base in Arizona and helplessly watched the events of September 11th unfold as she struggled with her own private hell. Her story is one of many “military wife” stories that often go untold.
I heard the sad and horrible yell, coming from the other end of a cold, metal hallway. The noisy sound of children yelling and adults crying and screaming.
The smell was strong of bleach and cleaning supplies, and I could taste charcoal, as it dripped down the back of my throat, making me gag; I tried not to throw up. Slowly I opened my eyes in wonder and disbelief that I was lying in a semi half-tilted up bed, with the television turned onto the news channel.
As I looked around, to my left was a doctor, his mouth wide open and in shock from what he just saw and heard, and a nurse yelled out, “OH No!” And “Hell No! I have family there” Someone in the bed next to me said, “Did you see that? The two airplanes, took a short left and drove in to that building, one of the Twin Towers!”
Just then, the medical hand cart dropped, hitting the cold title floor, making a banging and clanging noise, as the contains spilling onto the floor.
I looked up at the nurse crying next to me, holding a cup of black charcoal, telling me I needed to drink another cup, before anyone could talk to me.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
She turned and looked at me with fear in her face, tears running down her face.
“Sweetie, are you gonna be okay?” she asked. “In the state of mind you’re in, if I kept the television on?”
I replied with a “Yes. What’s going on?” Then I heard the announcement across the speakers, “Everyone, please stay calm, and please sit down where you are so the nurses can count the numbers of people in the hospital building.”
An hour had passed before I heard the Fort Huachuca Military Emergence procedures steps, giving instruction for lock down over the intercom.
Looking over at the television, the nurse had turned on about ten minutes ago, I saw all the commotion that the world was watching: two planes just hit the Twin Towers as I watched Channel 4 News and a military channel.
It was September 11, 2001. I heard all the channels on the television saying 9-11, over and over, like the message was on repeat from a recorder. Tears still running down her face, make-up smeared and with a quiet, yet sad tone, she said:
“You must be an angel!” With a puzzled look on my face, I asked her, “Why do you say that?”
The nurse replied, “Well, 9-11 happened to you and the nation, and you did not die. You’ve got to be an angel. Your name is Angela right?”
“Yes,” I said.
As she repeated herself again “Well, you are an angel.” She looked at my vitals.
I asked her what is going on with me. Then I asked another nurse that walked in my room, “Can you take this needle out and this black stuff I am drinking? It tastes like dirt.”
“It is charcoal, it help with all those pills that you took.”
“What pills did I take?” I said. My eyes were bloodshot, like red lines on a roadmaps. Was I that mad and upset at the world that much, to take pills? I thought.
I wanted to leave at that point. How could the nurse laugh at me in a time like this?
“I am a First Sargent’s Wife, at the age of 27 years old, most wives were over the age of 50 years old. I look over and care for 400 soldiers’ dependents, while their soldiers are deployed, ” I said. “Why would I do such a thing as to harm myself?”
In a quiet voice again she said, “Because you tried!” came from the doctor as he walk in my room.
Looking at the nurse, water started to fill up my eyes like buckets, why? My thoughts raced through my head, a thousand-miles-per minute. Then it hit me like the airplanes hit the Twin Towers: I was stressed out to my max and beyond my limits, like five credit cards ago. I was 27 years old, married to a First Sargent in the military on the Fort Huachuca Military Base in Arizona and 1900 miles from my home in Utah.
Before I requested to get the sleeping pills, my husband had been deployed overseas, doing a top securest mission for the Military Police. I had just found out that my children had been abused by their new step mother, and they requested that I come and pick them up from the base in Colorado. And on top of everything else, my father who I dearly loved, just had a heart attack, and I needed to go home with in the next couple of days: what was I to do?
As well as the military families under my care, I had two different families asking for Judge Advocate General, the military lawyers. Both of them wanted out of their marriages, had a family who were getting removed from base housing for breaking the rules, another was in jail from a weekend of being too drunk, and needed money to be bailed out.
“I remember taking a couple of sleeping pills to help me relax,” I said as the nurse as she filled out the forms on her clipboard.
“They found you with only three left in the bottle. And to make things worst, the nurse was telling me, that I am five month pregnant. You are lucky that neither of you died, ” she said.
I looked at her in shock, did I just hear her right, 87 pills and what? A baby? Then the doctor walked in.
“How is our Angel doing?” he said.
“I am fine,” I said.
As I looked at the doctor, the butterflies that were in my tummy left, his was a face that I knew: First Sargent Steven, he was over the medical field and staff for the hospital. He sat down on the edge of the bed, and said.
“Angela, what the Hell were you thinking? What about your husband? His military soldiers, their families, and most of all, what about you and the baby you are carrying?”
As he was talking to me, like my father did when I was six years old, I told him that, “I remember taking five or six of them, and laying down, and trying to sleep, counting the minutes past by going into hours, and still nothing. I took a couple more. I do not remember taking 87 out 90. He then told me, “Well, when you mix them with alcohol and other drugs, they work differently.
I told him, all I wanted was to get some sleep. It had been days, maybe even weeks since I’d slept.
“Okay, I know you are stressed out, and if you can promise me that you will never think about harming yourself, I will not report this, and it will mess up your husband’s military ranks forever.” First Sargent Steven said.
“Okay, it is a deal,” I said. And then he explain after I get my clothes on one of the soldiers would take me home because the military base was on a full lock down. When I left, I had to check up on all 400 soldiers and families and have them prepared for what could come next. Steven let me know how serious the issues were, that Fort Huachuca, Az. Military base was next on their list of places to take out. Our base, which in the head on communication for all other military bases.
When I left the ER that day, it was truly a 9-1-1 shocking day, thinking about my friends and family, that I knew in New York, and feelings of sadness and helplessness of why this, why now? And Thanking my God, above that I got to see another day and was able to be a support for the soldiers and their families, instead of feeling anger, hatred, sadness, and a wishing that I was never a First Sargent’s Wife.
I looked at life differently, realizing that today may not turn into tomorrow, that I might not been able to see what is coming my way. Looking back to the 9-11 screams of fear, lying on my back in my bed, with no cares in the world.
I look at life as a gift that God could take back at any time he wanted to.
With this gift of life, he gave me one to watch over: my baby.
Not having to worry about matters, or what does not matter. Many times people think of troubling and sad times, thinking that no one cares. Remember you care, and you matter. Do not stop smiling! Most of all, LIVE for today, because today may not turn into tomorrow.
Angela’s baby in photo above. “My Angel,” she said.