...Two years ago--September, 11 2006--I received a half-sized manila envelope in the mail.
I was living in Berkelely, CA, and I was just kicking off my second year of business school at the University of California. The night before I had gone to a Silver Jews concert in the city, and I slept in a little the morning of the 11th. I don't think I actually left my apartment that day until 3PM when I had to start heading to a class. I stopped to check the mail on my way out the door, and the manila envelope was inside my box.
The envelope had been forwarded from my summer address in Seattle (I worked at Amazon that year as a Product Manager intern) and the return label was from the Army's Human Resources Command.
This was not the first piece of mail HRC had sent me, but each previous mailing had been a regular letter in a regular envelope. Though I hadn't been expecting to receive anything from the Army, the second I saw that return label from HRC I knew what was inside--and strangely, I wasn't at all surprised to be receiving it.
I never did make it to class that day. Inside the envelope was a set of orders that required me to report for duty on the 3rd of October--about three weeks later. The envelope also contained instructions for how to request an exemption from the call up, or a delayed reporting date, so rather than go to class I called my wife (an Army lawyer) and my dad (a retired Army lawyer) to start figuring out my options.
As much as September 11, 2001 changed our lives and our world in the macro sense, receiving those orders on September, 11 2006 changed my life and Lauren's life even more. We are on a fundamentally different course than the one we had been on, and though I know that we would have married and shared our life together regardless, it's impossible to say how different our lives might have been if this burden had been handed off to others.
The Silver Jews, incidentally, played a show in my native Washington, DC on Wednesday evening--the 10th of September, 2008--proving for the umpteenth time that God is not without a sense of humor. I had hoped to be home in time for that show, but alas, I'm still here in Afghanistan for a while longer.