The Pain Lives On For Soldier's Family

On Tuesday, September 11th 2001, Manuela Leija was up early planning a celebration for one of her sons, who had just had a birthday the day before.

But all that planning quickly came to a halt, as reports surfaced that America was under attack.

Leija's mind-set went from planning a celebration, to dreading the inevitable.

"When they started to get soldiers to go for war," Leija said, "I said,' no, no, no, no!

Not this time!' Because I knew my son was going to go - so sure enough."

Leija's son, 27-year-old Army Sgt. Hector Leija had served in the army for 10 years.

After 9/11, he was called to the front lines in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I TMm still angry about it - no matter what - I TMm never going to forget the day that they took my son away for that," Leija said.

On January 24, 2007, while on a combat mission in Baghdad, Sgt. Leija was killed.

That's how the grieving mother said the 9/11 attacks changed her life.

"I expected my son to come home with a big smile like he always does," Leija said.

"I never thought he would come home in a coffin. That wasn't my dream."

Leija often sits in a memorial room she's built over the years, remembering and even talking out loud to her son, she said.

"I (am not) going to forget no matter what," Leija said "The only time I TMll forget and let my son rest in peace, is when I TMm with him - other than that, I TMm not going to let him rest in peace no matter what.

"Ten years after the terrorist attacks, Leija said she doesn't think the world is a safer place -not even if Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are dead.

The only thing she is sure of, is that 9/11 forever changed her life.

"I feel sorry for what happened to so many people - the 9/11 - I feel sorry," Leija said. "But, like I said, I never expected my son to be one of them."