Seeing 9/11 up close puts woman to work hiring veterans

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by JOHN SHARIFY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @JohnSharify

KING5.com

Posted on September 9, 2011 at 2:56 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 10 at 4:24 PM

It's impossible to talk with Tami Michaels and her husband Guy Rosbrook about September 11 without talking about the videotape. 

"She said, 'Guy, you need to start filming right away!'" said Guy, who did what he was told that day. He started rolling just after the first plane struck from the 35th floor of their hotel room.

"We've been told that it's one of the very first videotapes that starts to capture these moments," said Tami, a radio host and decorator.

That tape and Tami Michaels' testimony would be used later in the trial of the so-called "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui was convicted of criminal conspiracy charges and is serving life in prison without parole.

"My heart was beating," said Tami. "I thought I might be the last person that this jury hears about people being on fire and suffering."

But Tami suffered too.

"I feel like the war started at my feet," she said.

At the time, she didn't know it, just how this day and what she witnessed from her hotel window would change the course of her life.

"She was on a path where, well, she wouldn't have survived the path she was on," said Guy.

At the time, all Tami knew is how helpless she felt, like so many of us who watched the tragedy unfold.

"My brain couldn't comprehend what I was really seeing," she said.

She would later discover, like so many of our veterans coming back from war, she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. It was like she'd been at war herself, and seen what no one should see, so close to it all that morning, watching people take their last breath, watching people jump.  Those haunting images are burned, she says, into her soul. And she couldn't shake it.

"It was a combination of prescription medication and alcohol. I asked my doctor 'why do people with PTSD drink and why do they take these kinds of medications,'" Tami said, "and he said, 'Because they work for a while.'"

Five years it went on like that, until one word from one man changed everything.

"You know there just came a day where my son came back from Iraq and goes, 'Enough!'" recalled Tami.

Blake had enlisted in the Army just before 9/11. Tami has now been sober five years.

"Thank God," said Guy.

And they thank God their son Blake survived the war. Their nephew Kevin did not. He suffered serious injuries from a roadside bomb in Iraq and died after he came home.

"Kevin shared with me that he wanted me to know that he had a responsibility to go and serve after 9/11," said Tami.

At his funeral, Kevin's close friends and fellow veterans approached Michaels.

"They asked me if I was hiring," said Tami. "And that's when I said, 'Should I be?'"

She realized then what she needed to do next. And so now, the rest of the story.

"I have learned to take this experience and to choose to be a better person. That's why the work with the veterans," she said.

Tami owns a kitchen remodeling business. She's determined to get other businesses to do what she's already done -- hire veterans.

"I love these guys, " said Tami.

Stephen, Doug, Daniel and Shad are veterans she's hired.

"She's doing it. She's doing if for sure," said Stephen Creer, who works for Tami as a general contractor.

"When the rest of the country is complaining about nine percent unemployment, our veterans are at 24 percent unemployment and our disabled vets are at 44 percent unemployment, and to me, that is just plain unacceptable," said Tami.

So she is reaching out to legislators. She recently met with Washington State Senator Steve Conway and pitched her idea.

"I believe we need a data base. We need a data base that businesses like mine can list the jobs, a data base where veterans can access those jobs. And that we can contact one another," she told St. Sen. Conway. 

Conway listened and told her he'd like her to pitch her idea about jobs and veterans to Senator Patty Murray, and President Obama.

"I'm here to help," he said.

Tami's grandmother once told her something she will never forget.

"You can be bitter. Or you can be better. It's your choice."

It's clear, the choice Tami has made.

"And I couldn't be happier," said Guy with a smile.

"I'm grateful I have my life," said Tami, holding back tears.
 

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