Legacy of 9/11: Utah family draws closer together after deployment, injury
CEDAR CITY, Utah — The lasting impact of 9/11 has been especially profound for military families, including members of one Utah family that are grateful for everything they have after tough deployment completely changed their lives.
Like any family, there are moments the Woods cherish, like just going for a walk in their Cedar City neighborhood.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Travis Wood.
He and his wife Stephanie know how close it was to never being a possibility.
“I can’t tell you how many ‘you’re never going tos’ we heard,” he said.
Wood needs his prosthetic leg to go for those walks with his family.
Before we get to that story, though, we have to go back 20 years.
Back when he was a cook at a restaurant and saw the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on TV.
“I remember seeing the second plane hit the second tower,” said Wood. “And I remember feeling, for lack of a better word violated. It just felt so uncomfortable and unnatural.”
He signed up for the Army the very next day.
“I love what the military stood for, you know, that selfless service that putting the welfare and care of others before yourself,” said Wood.
The next few years meant basic training, getting married, having a child and eventually being deployed to Afghanistan.
He and his wife got pretty good at keeping in touch with those old-fashioned computer webcams.
“I don’t think there was a microphone. I think we just got to see each other and type,” said Stephanie Wood with a laugh.
“But to us, it was amazing,” said Travis Wood. “Because we can see little movements of our faces like oh, uh, and I could see my little daughter and she could wave to me and see my face.”
However, on Jan. 15, 2007, Wood didn’t show up for their planned video chat.
“We were supposed to chat on Sunday, and he never came on,” said Stephanie. “Then on Monday, I got an email saying two western soldiers were injured and blah, blah, blah. And I just had that feeling.”
Her gut feeling was right.
Wood was inside a military vehicle when a roadside bomb was detonated right next to or under it.
“I remember a wall of fire coming up. I remember flying into the air and coming down and hitting the ground,” said Travis. “I didn’t feel pain. It was just react, respond, react, respond. So, I got blown up, I need to get to cover. So, I flipped the harness and then the top half of my body fell to the ground. And that’s when severe pain happened. And it literally felt like a deep-sounding snap, but it felt like a number two pencil was breaking inside my body.”
The other soldier in the vehicle with Wood helped get him to safety where a helicopter flew him back to base.
“I was bleeding out so bad. They couldn’t get it to stop, so they called for an emergency blood donation,” said Travis. “And I received a total of 50 units of whole blood straight from people’s arms right into mine in the middle of Kandahar, Afghanistan.”
His wife, who was staying with her parents, got a call from the military that something had happened.
“I remember laying on my couch and my mom just rubbing my hair and I was just like, just in shock,” she said.
Her husband was flown to a military base in Germany, then to Washington, D.C.
Stephanie Wood flew to Washington to be with him.
There was no way of knowing they would be living in a hospital for the next two and a half years.
“I’ve had a total of 84 surgeries,” said Travis Wood.
He’s had operations for a broken spinal cord, pelvis, ribs, punctured lung, skull fracture, loss of some of his intestines and to have his leg amputated, to name just a few.
Through it all, though, he had his wife and daughter. Together, they got through.
“There is before him getting blown up. And there’s after, like, it is a distinct difference in our lives, like we barely remember before,” Stephanie Wood said.
They’ll admit it certainly wasn’t easy. But now, they’re as close as two people can be.
“It helped us grow closer from that,” she said.
In fact, two more children later, they even say they wouldn’t change a thing.
“All of that has to do with the foundations that we built and the commitments that we made to each other and honestly to God, and that trumped everything,” said Travis Wood.
Now, 20 years after the events which ultimately shaped their lives, they can’t imagine things being any better.
Stephanie Wood teaches piano and Travis Wood is a high school teacher.
They have a good life.
“We’re actually grateful for it and for everything that happened,” Wood said. “Because we now appreciate even the smallest things.”
Like, being able to go for a little walk. Together.
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