Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 Has Many Meanings for Muskego Veteran
Dennis Duran awoke from lifesaving cancer surgery to see the images of disaster on TV, but the day holds hope for him, as he's still here to tell his story
Dennis Duran said it's easy to remember the date of his prostate surgery at the Mayo Clinic, as it was also the day that America experienced its worst attack on its soil in history.
The Muskego Veteran had served in Korea, but faced a formidable diagnosis from not one, but two doctors in the area: Duran had cancer and all that could be done was done.
"The second doctor I went to told me he couldn't help me until I was in pain," Duran recalled. "I didn't go to him to relieve pain - I wanted him to do something to get rid of my cancer."
So, Duran requested a specialist's name at the Mayo Clinic. Despite some initial resistance he was given a name of a doctor who was only one of two in the nation that performed the surgery for prostate cancer.
"He told me I had a 50-50 shot, but I thought that was way better odds that the other two guys had given me," he laughed.
Surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2001. While Duran was under anaesthesia, his family waited tensely in the waiting room. His wife Kathy said the unfolding events, coupled with their own anxieties about having a family member in surgery, was almost too much to comprehend.
"Here we were in a different state, wondering how we were going to get home, as they had announced all air traffic was grounded," she said.
Duran did come out of surgery, and saw the images on TV in the recovery room.
"I thought I was watching a movie...they kept showing these planes going into buildings," he said.
Being a veteran, his thoughts soon turned to the response for such an action.
"I knew we'd have to go to war, but it would be so different. This is an enemy that isn't fighting over land, but a religious idea and they aren't afraid to die."
Today, he is proud of what he calls the "new greatest generation," young men and women who joined the service after 9/11, as well as older men and women who had families already that still responded, however he is concerned about the tenor of debate.
"I think we have a short memory, and people might forget what happened," he said.
However, the day itself remains first a personal anniversary of beating the odds. It's also a day that he quit smoking once and for all.
"I was so sick after the surgery, I had no desire to smoke, and I haven't since," he joked. "I guess you could say I rose from the ashes."