Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What I Remember...Not of THAT Day, But of That Time

I'm seeing tributes everywhere today. People stating that, "We Will Not Forget," or, "We Will Always Remember." Of course, we'll remember...how could we not? We, as a nation, lost our innocence that day. It wasn't the first time, either. A generation ago, our parents and grandparents felt a similar 'sting' with the death of Camelot. An 'ideal' was ripped from them and, together, they carried the scars of a November day in Dallas. Until 2001, we really hadn't experienced anything like that. Time, as it always does, moved forward...and so did we. Until.....

I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, talking on the phone with a coworker, when she told me a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I, of course, assumed it to be a small plane. As we continued our conversation, I heard her gasp and exclaim, "Oh, my God! I just watched another one hit the other tower!" Instinctively, our rational minds told us this was no accident. Across the country, we rushed to turn on our televisions and radios, while simultaneously calling family members to make sure they were okay. For the remainder of that day (and well into the next), we watched, over and over, as the planes flew into the towers. We saw the scarred landscape in Pennsylvania... and the gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon. Oh yes, we'll remember...and no, we will not forget.

For all these images, though, they aren't what I remember the most. While I mourn the lives that were lost that day, I prefer to keep positive memories…and there were many associated with these horrific acts. While it's easy to dwell on the surreal images of the jets flying into the World Trade Center.....I remember the flags. They were everywhere. Suddenly, and without a second thought, the American flag was flying from, what seemed like, every house in The country. it was flown over the rubble in New York, and used cover the hole in the Pentagon. For a brief moment in time (and something we should remember right now), we weren't Republicans or Democrats - we were Americans. We weren't black, white, or Hispanic - we were Americans. We weren't young or old, rich or poor - we were Americans. I remember, too, how selfless people were in their actions. We were kinder and gentler with each other. We actually made eye contact and spoke with others with a renewed, unified sense of American pride. It was almost as if, without knowing it, we had been transported back to the 50s. We respected each other and cared for each other, all while showing the world we are the 'United' States. Personally, and with the exception of the lives lost, I thought the terrorists made an egregious error and truly underestimated our resolve as a nation.

I mourn for the families that lost loved ones that day - we cannot imagine the emptiness they must feel. I also honor the heroes of that day - those on the planes, as well as the firefighters, policemen, and other emergency workers. That's something else I remember. While the freaks that perpetrated these acts were cowardly, we still have people that are willing to run INTO burning, smoldering buildings. 343 firefighters lost their lives that day, most of whom were asked to run INTO danger... and they never flinched. The same is true for the police and paramedics....and countless civilians.

That's what I remember. The flags that represented, at a time of deep national crisis, the embodiment of what our forefathers imagined for us 200+ years ago. We certainly made them proud and stood true to their ideals. I remember our heroes - men and women who, when asked, were willing to give up their lives for another. No, we will NEVER forget...for that day alone was one of my proudest moments to be called an 'American' and was a shining example of what we, as a country, stand for.

Until next time.....