Vancouver, Wash. family has lived a lifetime since 9/11

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 10, 2011 at 5:58 PM

Updated Sunday, Sep 11 at 5:03 PM

Gale Johnson stirs her children's minds for memories of their father.

Nine-year-old Isaiah keeping his dad close to his heart - wearing his dog tags around his neck. 

“He was always with me all the time,” he said.

Isaiah's little sister Rya holds a bracelet inscribed with the date of his death.
 
These keepsakes and a few fleeting memories are all they have left of their father.

Gale met her husband when she was just a child herself. The high school sweethearts married at 19.
  
Jeremiah Johnson enlisted in the army soon thereafter. He didn't do it to fight terrorists or to be a hero. He did it to learn job skills and get an education.

Then came September 11, 2001.

The next few years were a blur of highs and lows. In between deployments the couple had their babies. There were happy homecomings, missed holidays and a constant fear of the worst.
 
Jeremiah keeping in touch though occasional video messages.

But then one day, the worst came.

“That day my life changed. All of our lives changed forever,” said Gale.

Jeremiah hadn't been killed by enemy fire or blown up by a road side bomb. He drowned when his truck rolled off an Iraqi road and into a watery embankment. He was just 23 years old.

“Why? Why my kids? Why me? What would've happened? There's always the would've question,” said Gale.

She struggles to make sense of her husband's death in a war launched on false information but with terribly real consequences.
  
Nothing is "normal" anymore.

“You're never gonna be over something like this. The grieving process is a lifetime,” said Gale.

If not for 9/11 Jeremiah Johnson would most likely have seen his son score his first touchdown last week - and so much more.

Isaiah is 9 years old. He's now had as more years without his dad than he had with him. And it's starting to show.

“One day I was in the car with Isaiah and out of the blue he said. 'Gramma, I wish my dad would have lived until I was 10.' And I said, 'I do, too, honey,’” said Beth Johnson.

Like thousands of others, this family has lived a lifetime since September 11th, 2001 - and lost so much. But no one loses as much as the children of those who have died, Children who will suffer that fateful day and our response to it for the rest of their lives.

“You can't replace Jeremiah. You just try to put something into their life that you think he would want to be there,” said Beth.

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