It was a family wedding. My cousin was getting married in New York and I had already bought tickets for my husband and I to fly out from Texas to the wedding in September 2001. He would get to meet my grandmother finally and get to know my mother’s side of the family in the smallish town where she was raised. It was a family event. Of course we were expected. Of course he would go. But he couldn’t.
He came home and told me he was not able to get off work for some reason or another. Scheduling. Coverage. Other officers having seniority and being off. Training new officers and his role as an FTO. I really don’t remember the details. I remember being pissed and feeling embarrassed and maybe humiliated that my husband of 18 months would not be attending and worried what my parent’s would say because he wasn’t there. I flew off to White Plains, New York and attended the wedding in a small town outside of Kingston, NY on September 8, 2001. My brother, future sister-in-law, and I took the train into the city the following day and spent the day exploring and taking pictures. My husband was missed. There were comments about him not being there and I was still annoyed.
My brother flew out on September 10th and I was scheduled to fly out of White Plains the following day. That obviously never happened.
The day of my flight, I was talking to my mother and the phone rang at my aunt’s house. It was my brother telling us to turn on the TV. The first plane had hit and we watched in horror when the second plane hit thinking it HAD to be some type of a replay. It wasn’t.
We all have our own story of September 11th. Mine involves realizing in those moments of watching the NYC officers, firefighters, and first responders, that given a different location, MY HUSBAND would have been one of those people. It was in that realization that everything shifted for me. I realize that his duty WAS to protect and serve. He would choose to walk into the danger while others including myself would be walking away from it. I, while a priority, would need many times to come second to his commitment to protect and serve. Dates would be missed, vacations maybe cancelled, family functions not attended, holidays rescheduled. In those moments, I had a clarity I never had before.
It’s not always easy. It down right sucks sometimes. We have had our ups and downs like anyone but there is always a little something different and unique about a marriage to a law enforcement officer (LEO), firefighter, or other first responder. Many of my friends and family don’t get it. Some criticize. It’s probably not exactly the marriage I dreamed about. Let’s face it, going years passing each other in the bedroom, he leaving and me coming home, and maybe catching a dinner together at the house prior to a shift takes a toll on you. We make it work. We have struggled and we continue to learn. We fight for the marriage we want.
Out of our own experiences, witnessing the struggles of other officer’s marriages and sometimes divorce, and my training and experience as a mental health/marriage counselor, grew the desire to help other couples navigate this sometimes difficult road. My hope is that Code 4 Couples will provide resources for first responder couples to remain united and strong. Heroes don’t do it alone. It’s a journey you take together.