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A Call to Battle
An Essay by Phil Margetta-Cacace

audio Listen to Margetta-Cacace' essay.

Sept. 13, 2001 -- Like most of us on the East Coast, my day was just beginning when it was interrupted by a call from a friend, a reserve officer who works for the Office of Emergency Management. "Turn on your TV," he barked. "Yeah, the World Trade Center. I know."

"Pack your gear," he said. "It looks like we'll need to be ready to go somewhere soon." I knew he was overstating his point, but at the same time, I had that off-balance feeling you get when you've turned a corner and are headed into uncharted terrain. This time, it could involve going places to new things we'd rather not mention.

"As in other conflicts, I have resigned myself to the idea that again I will probably know someone who is injured or killed. Still, I hope that my fellow Americans do not succumb to blind anger. I think we all feel helpless, vulnerable and frustrated."

Phil Margetta-Cacace

After the attacks, my friends and family had the luxury of contacting me to make sure everything was all right, but all I could find out about the people at the Pentagon was what little I could glean from the news. No point in trying to call. If the phones weren't down, the lines needed to be free for emergency workers. Neither did I learn anything from the officer who phoned for a roster check of everyone in my unit.

But I know we've probably taken major losses in leadership. So I've begun my own personal roster check by e-mailing friends and colleagues. Thankfully some found time to answer right away. Others will probably respond later. Still others may not answer at all.

As in other conflicts, I have resigned myself to the idea that again I will probably know someone who is injured or killed. Still, I hope that my fellow Americans do not succumb to blind anger. I think we all feel helpless, vulnerable and frustrated.

Lashing out feels appropriate, even satisfying. But I know that whenever there is an inappropriate, overwhelming response, innocents suffer more than the guilty. As a soldier, and for the sake of the men and women whose fate I still do not know, I hope our nation's course will be dispassionate, measured and appropriate. Let us all pray that only the coolest heads prevail.

Major Phil Margetta-Cacace is a U.S. reserve officer.