One year ago today, was a day that, although I didn't know it at the time, would be a day I'll remember forever. November 13, 2004 is the day that Captain Sean Patrick Sims was killed in action in Iraq. It happened on a Saturday morning, and I didn't find out about it until the following Monday.
These are the times when I wish I were a writer instead of an accountant. I would love to capture my memories in a way that make you, the reader, feel even a fraction of the emotion that I feel. Sean and I met in college and dated for a while in what was a pretty serious relationship. After we broke up, we did not stay in touch, but I'd just run into his best friend and his wife at an Aggie football game, so I was contemplating contacting him to catch up. I knew he and his wife Heidi had recently given birth to a son, and I was interested to hear from him as a father. But, that was not to be the case. Instead, in a very weird turn of events, I've now struck up a friendship with his wife, Heidi, whom I've never met in person. When I tell people this, they always give me a strange look and say "you're friends with his wife? That's strange". But really, it's not when you think about it. In her words, we are the two people who probably knew him the best, and we're able to talk about Sean in a way that neither of us can with anyone else, because they didn't know him like we did. Crazier things have happened I guess!
Anyway, Heidi's post today tells the story of how she found out the news that Saturday evening. So...I'll tell mine as well.
On Monday, November 15, I had a business lunch with a very nice girl about my age who works for a payroll service. She and I were discussing client of mine that I had in mind for her service, and she was telling me how she could improve their payroll issues. I really enjoyed it because I like Hilary, plus I always like getting dressed in casual business clothes and going into the city. It reminds me of my former life, only I still get to go home, change into pajamas, and play with my kiddos! Anyway, as we finished I walked her to her car to get some printed materials to give to my clients. We even made plans to get together for some Christmas shopping in the next week or two.
I opened the door to my Expedition and started to climb in. Just as I'd tossed my purse to the other seat, my cell phone started ringing. With my door still opened, I saw that it was my niece Rachel calling from Oklahoma, which was odd in the middle of the day, so I answered quickly. (Rachel's husband Jason is in the Army and they were stationed at Ft. Sill at the time). "Hey Rach!....What's up?" I hear controlled tears in her voice as she says "Something bad. I have some bad news". I think she went on to say she wasn't sure if it was a good time to call me, and that she didn't know how to tell me this, etc. , but my concern for her caused me to interrupt with "it's fine...what is it??". I'm already thinking....something with Jason...a fight...I'll fly up there and make them make up....I'll help her fix it, whatever. She may be my niece, but my maternal instincts extend to her as well, and as a result I want her life to be perfect. So, my first reaction is that somehow it's not and I *must* fix it. She responds "They're saying.......They're saying Sean is dead". My response: "Sean Sims? No, no, no." Then it hits me. "Oh my God. (deep inhalation) Oh my God! (deeper inhalation) Oh my God!!! NO!!! Are you SURE??? How do you know?" She responds "Abby (her younger sister) saw a friend's post about it on texags.com, she wasn't sure it was the right Sean so she called me first, and I checked. It's him, I'm so sorry." This is the point where I begin to cry and sob hysterically. My car door is still open, and I'm at a trendy restaurant in Rice Village, and none of that ever crossed my mind. I cried and cried and cried until I finally registered Rachel's voice asking me if I was going to be OK and how would I get home. OK, reality. I realize I have to get it under control. I assure her I'll be OK, that I won't drive until I've calmed down, and that I'll call her as soon as I get home. Then I hung up and called my husband. The first words out of my mouth must have been assurances that nothing was wrong with me or the kids. He very lovingly let me cry and get it all out until I was calm enough to drive home, which must've been 20 or 30 minutes later, at least. The whole parking lot scene lasted around 45 minutes.
Luckily, I'd arranged for my kids to be cared for until much later, so I got home to an empty house. I sat down on the couch and immediately started searching the internet (and crying). First I went to texags.com to see this post that so blatantly just layed it out there for anyone to discover. There I discovered one of Sean's buddies from L-2, Mark, who had also found out via the texags post, and was demanding details and confirmation. I was so grateful for that, because that's what I wanted to do too. I posted to see if he remembered me, and he did, and we then started conversing regularly via email as the days unfolded. After I'd read that post, I started searching. Every scrap of info, which was much more that I expected to find, on the internet. Then i remembered that I'd just seen his best friend Dave and his wife Michelle at a football game, and I had their phone number! What a strange thing that I'd run into them the week or so before and I hadn't seen them in 10 or more years until then! I called Michelle and left her a message that I knew and to please call me back, which she did. Turns out, she'd wanted to call me, but in her words she was too scared to actually be the one to tell me. I was so grateful to have her to talk to, because she was the only person I knew who'd actually known Sean when I did, other than my niece, and we had many shared memories to go over. My niece Rachel had been 13 at the time I dated Sean, and would come spend the weekends with me at Texas A&M, hang out with Sean and his buddies with me, and go to the football games. She'd even known Dave & Michelle. That whole experience influenced her to go to Texas A&M, and knowing Sean influenced her to date and eventually marry a Corps boy of her own...Jason. So I was very grateful that it was she who gave me the news. But for the grace of God I would've just happened upon it at texags.com, which would've been much more horrible for me, I think.
<....to be continued....>
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