Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This Country is MY Country

When I was growing up, I remember my parents telling me over and over about Pearl Harbor, how they were at Sunday breakfast, listening to the news on the radio when the bulletin was announced: the Japanese had hit Pearl Harbor. They were stunned, as was the nation. But they knew what had happened; it had already happened. And they knew who. And we were already at war, if not then officially with Japan. There was grief, but there was immediate, tremendous anger. On Dec. 8, 1941, probably a majority of men in the United States went down to the recruiter's to sign up for military service.Many, many more men were to die before the war finally ended following the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Women died, too, of course, who had enlisted as nurses or other support positions to care for the injured and troops. Many sacrifices were made, in service and at home, for years.

On Sept. 11, I was getting ready for a meeting to determine the future for a family I was working with, working with a couple who had volunteered their services and taken this family in. It was an important meeting for this family's future. I was listening to the radio as I got ready. There was a silence, and then the newsman came on and in a rather blank voice announced a plane had just crashed into one of the twin towers. He added that at that moment, they had no information to indicate this was anything but a tragic accident. And then the second plane hit. And we knew. We all knew. We weren't sure what we knew, except this was no accident.

I was on my way to my meeting when the third plane hit the Pentagon, and I screamed at the radio, "WHAT'S HAPPENING?" Then the news that all aircraft in the U.S. had been ordered to land. As I headed west towards my destination, I saw an airliner coming in to land at D-FW Airport, and I thought, "That's one of the last I will see for awhile."

When I reached my destination, they had the television on, and there was absolutely no way we could cope with the business that brought us together. We watched as people in New York reacted, as debris came down, and witnessed the companies of fire fighters and police walking into the towers, with almost a swagger in their steps....We watched and saw the first tower fall, the wind and debris swooping down the streets and people running for their lives, and then, the fall of the second. We were numb. We prayed. There was nothing else to do. How many? My God, the towers held 50,000 people when fully occupied. How many?

We finally got ourselves together and dealt with some of the business we were there to conduct. I wouldn't say it was the best thinking or planning any of us had ever done, but we came up with a plan.

I went back to the office, swinging by one of the fast food places I frequented, and the clerk who often served me was at the window. As I paid for my food, I asked, "How are you doing?" Her lip trembled and she almost cried. "I'm making it," she said, "but it's hard. You know?" And I did. I don't think I could have done her job that day. Sometime that day, we learned about the crash of Flight 93, and sometime after that, started learning what transpired there. Those people were heroes. Just like the firemen and police who went into those towers. We owe them a tremendous debt. I will always be grateful.

The information came in bits. I think it was the next day before I first heard the name, Osama bin Laden.

I know that night, George Bush spoke to the American people. Now, I've never liked Bush. He irritated me (and still does) extremely. But that night there was a sea change. He was the Commander in Chief, and I was grateful to hear his voice. I needed to hear it.

I've long since returned to being the Loyal Opposition. There is a change in that, too. I do worry that our rights and freedoms are being whittled away bit by bit. But they aren't gone, and this is the United States, and I realize, as never before, what a privelege it is to live here. I always knew it, but it has been driven home. Maybe that has something to do with my feelings about illegal immigration, because those folks live here, but they really have no idea what they really have.

I've always loved the sight of an American flag rippling in the wind. And whatever rights or wrongs I think my country is responsible for, it is MY country. And the waving flag, or flags, simply touch my heart even more deeply than ever before.

So if there are sad memories, and there are, there is also a deepened love of country, a better knowing of just what it means to be an American. I mourn the dead.The deaths were horrible, and those families and friends will grieve the rest of their lives. But I also celebrate the deeper love of country. I especially celebrate it today. I will continue to in the years to come.


JPG said...

That was a truly great blog post. I won't even try to list the parts I particularly liked. It was all outstanding.

Elder Son is trying to convince me to start my own blog. I may do it, too. But for the past two days, I've been glad I haven't started yet. Why? Because I'd have felt compelled to write about 11SEP2001, and I'd have been so utterly inadequate.

night lightning woman said...

I thank you so much. I didn't plan this--it just rolled out.
He's right--you have a lot to say, and never let it be intimated that you lack for opinions, observations, or the fine art of story-telling.

Merry Jelinek said...

Beautifully put, night lightning woman...

I have nothing to add, you put everything so eloquently, I just wanted you to know I enjoyed the read.

Matt G said...

Can't believe it took me three days to read that; I plead Life Getting In The Way.

Great post. I'm tempted to link it, but I think that I won't, 'til next year. Days of remembrence are important, but they pass on, too.