Friday, September 11, 2009

Where were YOU?

Every generation has one – a day in history that was so powerful that they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news broke…whether it be good news or bad, it makes such an indelible impression that the question “Where were YOU?” can bring up vivid memories and incite the same emotions that surfaced at that moment.

For my generation, it was September 11. You don’t even have to say the year, because for us, it was a before and after situation. Before September 11, and after September 11. It was a division of time between the world in which you felt safe and secure, and one in which you knew that evil had a face…and that face may be as benign as the nice young man next door.

I was driving to a job site, leaving behind my two boys until it was time for school. My favorite morning radio show was somber as I tuned in, and Jackie was saying, “A second plane has hit the World Trade Centers.” To say the very least, I was confused. A SECOND plane? I spent the rest of the ten minute drive listening intently to find out why in the world a plane had hit the WTC, much less TWO planes. It must be a mistake!?

I came inside the building and asked if anyone knew what was going on. Not having television at the site, they were as much in the dark as I was. They were hanging on the words of customers that were coming in, giving bits and pieces of the story. We scrounged up a radio and picked up the only station that it would find in our remote area. We would relay the information to other employees in the building.

The world seemed surreal. There was only interest at this time, as it was so completely out of left field that I don’t think that we truly believed it. And then a third plane hit the Pentagon.

My brother being in the Air Force was suddenly my only concern. We had no idea at that time if there were more planes poised to take out American buildings. We had no idea how long it would last, who was attacking us, or how to defend ourselves. I envisioned planes being scrambled and into the air to combat the phantom enemy, of months of war. I needed to speak to him before it became difficult to do so.

I got the answering machine. I left a strange, rambling message that ended in tears. At his end, they didn’t even know that there was a problem. CJ had been watching cartoons, and kids’ channels were the only ones that hadn’t broken in with live coverage. He got out of the shower and heard my message, calling out to Sis…”Turn on the TV! There’s something going on!”

I was talking to him when the first tower crumbled. He was incoherent as he told me that the tower had fallen. Incredulous, I simply could not wrap my mind around it. “How man floors fell?” I asked.

“All of them!” he replied. “All of them. The whole top of the building is gone!” I simply could not believe it.

When it was time to get the boys up for school, I hurried home and turned on the television. This was the first that I had seen of the damage. I arrived just in time to watch the second tower collapse in on itself. I remember thinking that it had to have been a planned job. I could not even imagine that the building could come down. Surely, it had to have been wired to explode.

I dropped off the kids in a trance, not wanting to leave them there…but wanting things to be as normal as possible. Until we knew more, it seemed the wisest thing to keep them in the dark somewhat.

The day became a blur from that point, with snatches of news coming in. I was doing the books, and could barely concentrate. A task that should have taken two hours took me the entire day…and I spent the next week correcting mistakes that I had made.

Addy came out of the school that afternoon proudly carrying a grasshopper impaled on a stick.

Impaled. I freaked.

“Do you have any idea what you have done?!? You have TORTURED and MURDERED that grasshopper!” I was barely contained and probably being looked at sideways by the other parents. I was crying and made him take it back out to the playground and find a nice burial place for it. He returned with tears in his eyes, as he had seen the blood when he took the grasshopper off of the stick. I’ve always taught the boys that killing something for the sake of killing it was wrong, regardless of whether it was a bug or a bird or a person. I think that lesson really hit home that day.

It was that day that tore our world apart, and it’s never been the same since. It will never be the same. It simply can’t, now that we know.

You know how things are supposed to work. We watch movies that chronicle doomsday in any number of ways. I could never have imagined THIS. To think that the President was aboard Air Force One for safety, flying about the country so as to remain a moving target. The Vice President was in a bunker. And I know that they felt isolated and wanted to be where they could be the most help, not hiding away.

As with any disaster, I was glued to the television. What impressed me most was that Rudy Guiliani was on television all day…into the night, as I stayed up until the wee hours…and then when I arose with the sun, he was still on television. To have taken his responsibilities that seriously, to have been available around the clock, showed what a caring and dedicated man he is.

In the days that followed, I was proud of the response of the American people. On September 12, we were ONE. We cared, we reached out to one another. We stood proud and strong and tall. In spite of it all, the thing that I took from that day was the sense of pride in our country.

I felt such overwhelming gratitude to be where I was. I had recently returned from a business trip that took me across the country. Planes that fateful day were set down wherever they were when the FAA decided to shut down the skies. Travelers were left stranded in airports that they had not even intended to go to. That could have been me, left in Cincinnati or Detroit or Hoboken, without hope of reaching my family.

I was touched by the heroism that coursed through the veins of nearly every American. Those who sacrificed to be at Ground Zero helping in any way that they could. Those who gave their lives in doing so. Those who brought down a plane in a field instead of allowing it to be used as a weapon of war.

Make no mistake, this was an act of war. I think that this has been forgotten in the rhetoric of politics. This was an attack on our own soil. The enemy may not wear the uniform of any formal army, but it was an army nonetheless. To expect them to pay the price for this attack is reasonable, even if it means hunting them to the ends of the earth, across borders. I do not delight in war, nor do I condone violence in any situation. But you cannot stand by and watch as evil triumphs. You have to draw the line when it comes to what will be tolerated, and what will not. I think that in many ways, it is our “as long as it doesn’t affect me” attitude is what made us most vulnerable to this attack. We have to say NO once in awhile.

To protect our homes, our families, and our liberty.

The Book of Mormon is very clear on the acceptable reasons for war. It is not entered into lightly, and it is not to gain power or possession. It is allowable and acceptable when it is necessary to protect our homes, our families, and our liberty, that we might continue to worship God.

Regardless of what side of the aisle you fall on, I think that President Bush was a remarkable man in the days following this horrific event. He brought the nation together in an unprecedented way, declaring war on the powers that support acts of terrorism. He said NO. He praised those characteristics and behaviors that we look to in our heroes. He recognized those that were contributing to the healing process.

More importantly, he brought the nation to it’s feet…and encouraged us to our knees. Never before had we needed the guidance and comfort of our Maker as we did at that time. He openly and freely invited worship and prayer. He didn’t tell us how, or whom to pray to. He simply asked that we do it.

The images that will stay with me forever…of course, the firemen raising the American Flag…President Bush on Air Force One, talking on the phone as he gazed into the clouds…John McCain pausing on the steps to pray with the American people…a young couple stranded in an airport, holding their infant close to them as they awaited word on when they might return home…astronauts watching the World Trade Center burn from space…planes lined up at the airport…candlelight vigils.

I woke this morning and turned on the television to share in the remembrances of this day, only to find that the day was all but forgotten. A mention here, a comment there. No one was wearing their red, white, and blue. No one even seemed to notice that this was the day that ripped our lives into BEFORE and AFTER.

A mere eight years after the event, we have politicized, polarized, and then obliterated the heaven that came out of that day. I am saddened that we have so easily set aside our anger towards the terrorists, and turned it on one another. Our country could not be more divided today…when it was but a few short years ago that we couldn’t have been more united.

How did we get to here?

I wore my red, white and blue today. I put on my flag pin and I remembered the day even if no one else cared. I said a prayer for the brave souls that CONTINUE to protect us even though there are so many who criticize them for doing so. I remembered those that we lost that day…in body, or in spirit. The lives that were lost, and the lives that were damaged beyond repair.

My favorite radio morning show was on again, and just as they did 8 years ago, they covered September 11 with the personal, heartfelt style that I have come to know and love. They may be raucous and crazy on any other day, but they helped me to cope with all that we were forced to endure at that time, and today, they honored that memory. Way to go, Kiss FM! It’s good to know that at least one media outlet has set aside their politics for this day.

There’s still tomorrow. Let’s celebrate September 12 as we did eight years ago. Let’s band together as Americans, young and old, republican and democrat, rich and poor. Let’s champion the indomitable spirit of the scrappy American. Let’s just say no to the evil that surrounds us. Let’s love one another the way that we did AFTER. Let’s try to go back to a time when it wasn’t about the individual, but rather about the collective.

Back to the way that it should be. Come on. I dare ya!

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