Weatherford Democrat

September 14, 2011

9/11 and Sept. 11 have two different meanings for me

Tracy Friend
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD — On 9/11/2001, I remember sitting at a local breakfast joint and watching the first tower get hit while watching the morning news on the TV screen above the booths against the wall. At first I thought, “Damn, someone really screwed up.”

I went home and turned on the television to follow up and couldn’t believe my eyes when the second tower got hit. It was a gut feeling, but I knew something really, really bad was in the works.

I don’t need to fill in the blanks here now, it’s history. America was torn apart, brought to its knees, then rose again. Kind of.

Since then, patriotism has soared, been abused, brought us together as a nation and has been misunderstood. I come from a family that has served proudly, including both of my sons. I feel privileged to live in this country. For all the good and bad, the ups and downs.

But for me, Sept. 11 is an entirely different story.

That is the day, in 2007, my father decided his life wasn’t worth living anymore. He tried to take his life in my backyard, not more than 20 feet from my bedroom window — with my gun. My life took a drastic turn that day. I wanted to mourn the 3,000-plus souls that suffered in 2001, but instead, I was covered from head to toe in blood myself.

The rescue system failed our family that day. It took the fire department and the ambulance more than 45 minutes to arrive, even though we are only two miles from a fire station, and my neighbors at the time worked for three separate departments. We were abused by the sheriff’s department of Parker County while I was desperately trying to keep my father alive.

At least 10 officers were on site before any rescue arrived, and not one of them would help with first aid. I was told, “That’s not my job” while trying to keep my father elevated so he did not aspirate. I don’t blame them for not wanting to get blood on their hands. Who knows, he could have had a dangerous condition as far as they knew.

My father shot himself from under the chin straight up through the top of his head — there was a lot of blood. But after more than half an hour, my legs were giving out. When I started begging, shouting, where in the hell is the ambulance, I was reprimanded and told if I could not speak respectfully, I would be put in the car. I knew if my dad was not held up, he would die on the spot. So I kept my mouth shut, even though I wanted to scream at everyone.

We live in a fairly rural area (more built up now than it was before), but not so rural that you couldn’t see town at night, this happened at 4:30 or so in the morning, and I was desperate to hear a siren. That would mean help was near. I did hear sirens, and then they faded away. I later found out my husband was standing in our front yard with an officer from the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, and when the ambulance missed our road, Steve said, “There they go, please call them back.” The officer told him to back off and let him do his job.

Twenty minutes later, the EMTs called saying they were lost.

I could write pages and pages of what continued after, including not being allowed to accompany my father once the air support showed up, because I was no longer useful and at that point I was an “attempted murder suspect.” I was gun powder tested, lied to about where my father was taken, had to [use the bathroom] in front of an officer — did I mention the temperature was in the 40s that night?

I was covered from head to toe in blood and not allowed a jacket or allowed to sit after 45 minutes of being in a constant squat trying to keep my dad’s head up so the blood gurgling through his head and neck didn’t choke him to death. What happened over the next few months was no better.

But, I can tell you I love my country. We have the right to be wronged and fight it. Which I did.

A little over a year after this all happened I walked into the sheriff’s department and took my gun back. I didn’t want it, I just didn’t want them to have it. It was in shambles. The carefully oiled piece that left my house the year before was now rusty and banged up. It looked as if it had been left on the roof through several rainy seasons.

We gave it to a very good friend who promised to take it away and put it to a good end. I wish I could say, long story short, but this is the short version. It was actually phase 1 of many to come.

We all deserve to be respected as citizens. We all owe respect to those who protect us, care for us and tend to us when we are hurt. We all owe respect to those who die for us whether they knowingly put themselves in harm’s way or not.

I do not respect what my father did. For those folks who feel some people are “not themselves” when they make that final decision to give up life, I disagree. It pains me that I cannot write out all of the details, because it would be volumes. I’ll post this, even though it might not be popular. All I can do is thank you for possibly giving me a platform to express myself for the first time.

I guess you can say I woke up and went to bed a patriot today, with a keener sense of knowing that when it comes down to it, we are all responsible for ourselves.

Tracy Friend is a guest columnist and a Weatherford resident.