First, let me say that this is, indeed, a teaser title for this post. Obviously, those that know me understand that I could never, nor would ever, be thankful for what transpired on 9/11/01 as it pertains to the lives lost in New York, Pennsylvania, or at the Pentagon. No one other than cruel, sadistic, heartless, deranged killers could be 'thankful' in any way for the deaths that occurred that day. The terrorists exist solely to instill fear and none of us that are rational, caring, compassionate individuals can relate. Still, when we remember back to that day ten years ago, I think you'll understand what I mean by ultimately being thankful. It would be easy to imagine a world that was shaped without these causative acts, however that is an impossibility. It happened...and we cannot go back. Finding something...anything...positive about that day can only help us to move forward....and appreciate each and every day.
My generation, specifically my age group of at, or near, 50 years old cannot remember President Kennedy. We were babies when he was assassinated. Through the years we remember our parents always using the same phrase - "No one will ever forget where they were that day when they heard the news." While we thought it would be easy to understand this concept, I don't think we fully grasped it. The closest thing our generation had that evoked a response that was similar was when the space shuttle "Challenger" exploded killing all the crew members. That, too, though was different. We've come to realize that President Kennedy getting shot and killed brought a sense of loss, grief, and sorrow. We lost our way as a country when our leader was killed. Camelot died that day. When the Challenger exploded, we felt sorrow again, yet this was an unexpected mechanical failure, not an assassin(s) desperately trying to kill a leader. Our generation might remember where we were, but the emotions we felt were not what we'd come to know after 9/11. That is a day we will never forget - none of us. Not only will we always remember where we were, we will always remember our emotions.
That day, for me, started as did many others in the life of a salesman - waiting to meet a co-worker to see a customer. While sitting in my car, I was speaking with yet another co-worker who was still at home preparing to leave. As we talked, she mentioned that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. With no other information, my mind conjured up an image of a small Piper or Cessna plane that had inadvertently flown into the building due to pilot error or misfortune. As we continued the conversation, she told me another plane had just hit the other tower. Her gasp, as she watched it happen live, was audible and eerie. It was then that I understood these were passenger jets. I turned on my car radio and the news was everywhere. They simulcast the Today Show and I heard the voices describing what I could not see. Something was very wrong. Immediately, I cancelled my appointment and began the hour-long trip home. By the time I got there, the plane had gone down in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon details were sketchy. Does any (or all) of this sound familiar. This was our "moment in time," that we would never forget. These emotions, as details emerged, were different than anything any of us had ever felt. I took up residence in front of my television for minutes that turned into hours, then days. What we witnessed was beyond belief and is seared into our collective memories. We saw the second plane, multiple times, flying straight into the tower. We remember the buildings collapsing. We will never forget the images, sadly, of those trapped above the gaping, burning holes in those towers that later jumped to their deaths. We lost our innocence that day. We lost our inability to understand what we had seen on television in those far-away countries in the Middle East. We saw, that day, images that appeared as if we, too, lived in a third-world country. And we were angry, scared, confused, shocked, and sad...all at once. Then, after we regained our composure, we acted.
It wasn't just then that I became thankful. That took years and a deep understanding for me to realize how I felt. I remember the first few days after this happened that I saw more American flags flying from front porches than I had ever seen before. There were flags everywhere. Our patriotism was infectious. Do you remember how we spoke to each other? We shared...and struck up conversations everywhere with people we had never met. We felt alive as a country and a people...and that made us stronger. It made us realize that we will never be terrorized, nor would we be alone. Our American pride could be seen from coast to coast. I don't ever remember a time like that in my life...and I wanted to thank the terrorists because not only had their goal not been met, it was actually working quite the opposite. We were, suddenly, truly the "United" States...and it never felt better. I am thankful, too, because I honestly never had a full appreciation for our firefighters. To this day I cannot fathom how they muster the courage to look at a burning, collapsing building and say, "Time for me to go in there." They went in and up, as others were coming down and out. 343 brave lost souls and I am thankful that, in giving their lives to their fellow man, they taught me, personally, that some people will make the ultimate sacrifice for mere strangers just because it is the right thing to do. It is extremely noble and I would never have had that appreciation were it not for some sadistic, heartless individuals that only exist to kill other human beings in the name of their God. How disturbingly sad.
My thanks is in no way because I am glad that day happened. It is only because I got to see our people and our country, in what very easily could have been our darkest hour, make it a shining example of what this country really is. It send a resounding message around the world that, though you might continue these disgusting efforts against us, we will not bow to terror. We are Americans and we will stand, arm in arm, to protect our fellow citizens. In short, their efforts in attacking us made me more proud to be an American than I have ever felt, before or since. I hope our remembrance this week helps rekindle that, if even a bit.
9/11/01 is a day we vowed to never forget. We all know it is a part of our history now, as is the way we reacted. My sincere hope, as we remember this anniversary, is that we begin to speak to each other as gently and kindly as we did then. I hope we fly our flags again rather than get caught up in our day-to-day apathy. We need to share a moment of silent remembrance for the families of those brave men and women that were lost that day, whether in planes or on the ground. We need to understand there are still more people that are dying because they wanted future generations to remember. The people that were at Ground Zero are ill or have already begun to die, though they have given continually since that fateful day ten years ago. I'm sad when I remember those images, grateful that we did not lose more lives, and thankful that the terrorists taught us all how to live, love, and appreciate the fact that we live in America and are part of the greatest society in the world. Think of it this way - the world will, sooner rather than later, forget Osama bin Laden. They will not, however forget what happened to those towers or how we, as an incredibly resilient people, survived and thrived because of our strength.
9/11/01 - We will NEVER forget.........Let's roll.
Until next time...........