Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11

I wasn't planning on doing this, but after watching the videos on History Channels and National Geographic Channel, it brought back the terror, the sadness, the sympathy, the hurt and the pure anger I felt on that day 10 years ago. With everyone's videos and comments on social networking sites, I thought best not to partake, for I felt that my moment of silence this morning at 0846 and the prayer I said remembering the families of all those lost, the men and women of the NYPD and NYFD, the service members at the Pentagon and the numerous men and women in uniform, my brothers and sisters in the arm service who paid the ultimate sacrifice and became a part of a long proud tradition of heroes that have made this country what it is.

Yes I know all the slogans, We Will Never Forget, Gone but not Forgotten, Always Remember, etc, etc etc. I say yes, we should never ever forget. Forgetting would make it so those people would have died in vain, forgetting will cause us to slack off our guard, forgetting makes it easier for those who wish us harm to do so again. I know that I will never forget, for the sake of those lives, for the protection of my family, for the love and protection of my country, I will never Forget, so help me GOD.

We, as Americans, need solemn remembrence, mourning and comfort on occasions such as this. Its part of the healing process, and as someone who works in a funeral home, I see the importance of healing and grieving everyday. However, I am going to propose something that might anger you when you read this next line, however, please before making a judgement, read the rest of this post. I propose that instead of mourning today and on future 9/11's, we celebrate. That's right, I said celebrate. Mad yet? Keep reading, I promise you will see things different. The deaths have happened, the mourning has passed, the pain is still there, especially for those who lost loved ones, however, being sad, hurt and angry on 9/11 will not bring back those lives, it will not deter the terrorists, it will not make us a better country. However, if we look at the positives that have came from that tragic day and we celebrate the lives, the heroism and the reaction of Americans on that day and the following days, we will continue to grow stronger as a country and as a people.

On 9/11/2001, we all woke up, it was a normal day. Everyone will remember where they were when the news broke in. However, before 0846 eastern time, it was a normal day. In the history of our country, 9/11 was a day filled with history and tragedy just like any other day, however 2001 would forever change that regular day. Before that, some history buffs might have know, on this day in 1777, our forces suffered a defeat by the British at the battle of Brandywine, in 1814, We wooped the British at Lake Champlain. In 1936, FDR hit the button that fired up the very first generator at the recently completed Hoover Dam. In 1941, we broke ground on the Pentagon, and in 1961 a Category 4 hurricane named Carla hit Texas, killing 46 people. Now, on, in 2001, exactly 40 years to the day that we started construction on the Pentagon, that same building became a target in the eyes of the terrorist who struck that day and make 9/11/2001 more than just another regular day filled with small tidbits in history of our country. I remember where I was and how I felt.

Now, lets go back to 9/12/2002. We woke up to more scenes from New York and from the Pentagon and from a field in Shanksville Pennsylvania. However, for most, the initial shock and awe had left us. At this point, we were looking at each other wondering what we should do, wondering will the anger and hurt go away, wondering who was responsible, wondering what will we do. We also saw (to some with amazement and to me with great pleasure) the resilience that is the American nature. We saw the firemen, first responders, volunteers sifting through the debris that use to be these wonderful buildings. We saw their courage, their strength and their fear. Men and women who had been working tirelessly for over 24 hours now. They kept going, exhausted, dirty, tired, hungry, thirsty and knowing that with every piece of destruction they rolled over, they could find a victim of this horrible act, many of those victims brothers and sisters of the PD and FD or the armed service, yet they still dug, they still searched, they still fought. It was then, we realized something. Like those searchers, Americans will never stop, never give in. We then started to see reasons to celebrate.

Over time, we saw something new. Something, in this time of political discourse, we haven't seen in a long time. Something that was especially missing in the days following the 2000 elections. We saw a UNITED STATES OF AMERICA once again. Sure, there were still arguments over politics, there were still Democrats, Republicans and independents, still different ideas on how to feed the poor, create jobs, fix the economy, etc etc etc. But when it came to this day, and the short days thereafter, and our response to the events of this day, for once in my lifetime, something happened that we haven't seen since WWII. We were no longer Republican, Democrat or Independent, we weren't latino American, African American, Asain American. People were no longer black or white or any other color, we didn't see differing ethnic groups or religions, we were ALL AMERICANS, united in response to those responsible. We stood as one voice and one nation and put away our disagreements and politics and said "We will not back down, we will not surrender, we will not go silently into the abyss of history but WE WILL fight back and those guilty of this act will pay the price". A reason to celebrate. Leaders of both parties put aside their disagreements and stood together. Neighborhood disputes were put aside for a few days. For awhile, we stood strong in our response. It was something to remember and celebrate.

For a while, America changed. For a while, America was an even better place than it already is. I remember a video that aired during commercial breaks for a while. I wish it still did. It showed a row of houses, red brick, all about the same in a peaceful little neighbor. The voice over said, "On September 11th, the terrorist set out to change America..." then all of a sudden the scene faded than came back, only this time, every porch had an American Flag flying from it and it concluded with the voice over finishing the sentence by saying, "They succeeded" It was strong, it was powerful and it said exactly what I'm trying to say. It showed what America was capable of and gave a reason to celebrate in the midst of sorrow.

I save this last reason to celebrate the positives of that day because I believe it is the most important of all and it holds very near and dear to me. We need to look at the positives of that day, many which were seen right away although it took us a while to see them through the tears; and others which came to light days, weeks, months and years down the road. We must look at the heroism, the self sacrifice and the actions of those involved that day. We must celebrate their lives and their actions. For it was those people that made the strength of America after 9/11 possible. We saw it on our tv and heard about it for years after. Men and women, some just regular people, some heroes already because of their service to the country or to their fire department or police department. They gave us something positive in the horrible event. Something to be proud of, something to celebrate, something to shove in the faces of those SOBs responsible to show we won't be beat. We heard of the the passengers of Flight 93 fighting back. We heard of the phone call that started with them being told that other flights were hijacked and used as human loaded bombs and ended with the now famous phrase, "Lets Roll". We will never know the exact details of that flight, nor will we know which passengers were part of the charge. But we do know two things. In an attempt to attack democracy, democracy was used to decide to fight back and the second thing we know is, the actions of those passengers led to the crash of that plane in a field in PA and prevented it from its target and the further killing of innocent civilians. In the Marines, we are taught that courage is being afraid but going in anyways. I know that those passengers that charged the cabin, fought back and saved lives were scared for their lives, how could they not be, but yet they went anyways. We learned of regular, everyday workers, people who don't carry a gun, run into a burning building, fight wars, but just work a 9 to 5 in an office sacrificing themselves to save their co-workers. Men and women that were at another regular day at work in the office. This particular day that office was in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. When the planes hit, the fires roared and the people screamed, they jumped to action. They could have chose to run, the could have chose to save themselves. Yet many chose to run back in. They were scared, but they went anyways. They ran into the debris, the smoke, the flames and the heat so that they might save one more person. They guided co-workers, office rivals, friends and strangers to safety. Often running back in for one more check. Many didn't return. Courage. We also remember the members of the NYPD, FDNY and the first responders at the Pentagon who showed up for another regular day of work. When the planes hit, they ran. That's right, they ran. They ran towards the flames, not away. Many could have left, many could have volunteered to do perimeter security, many who were off duty could have stayed home til their shifts started. However, they didn't do that. They chose to run into the buildings, they chose to go in early to see how they could help. The ran up the stairs, the helped drag the injured out just to get them on an ambulance and run back in again. Many didn't come back. Some were new to the department, some veteran's. Some, like Bob Beckwith, famous for being the man standing next to President Bush during the famous Bull Horn Speech on Sep 14 were retired and no longer on the Department, yet came in willing to do what they had to do. Were they scared? Yes, even though they've been in danger before, this was something never seen. They were scared but they went in anyways. The ones who went in claim they were just doing their job, but we saw much much more. All the events of the day, all the people who worked together to show our resolve, to save lives, to clean up the rubble so we can rebuild. They were all scared, but they all went in. That's something to celebrate... Courage.

So, continue with your posts, your memories of 9.11, your sorrow and mourning. However, when you wake up the next day, remember 9/12/2001 and how America was that day. Remember that in the wake of tragedy came something positive. In the shadow of loss, American still had something to celebrate. We will always have a political divide. We will always have our family and neighborhood disputes. But when we remember how we felt on 9/12. When we celebrate the lives of those we lost, when we remember and celebrate the positives that came from those events, when we do this, maybe, just maybe we will find ourselves just a little happier, a little better neighbors and a little better friends. If we remember 9/12, we might set aside some of the smaller arguments, we might find ourselves a little closer and little happier. Lets remember those who stood up and answered our nation's call. Lets remember the pride we felt when we saw them continue on. When we heard the stories of ordinary citizens becoming heroes when they fought back, when we heard of those going back in because they heard a voice in the smoke. Yes, we should feel sorry for those who lost love ones, we should mourn those lost, but we should celebrate the heroism of that day. We should celebrate the resolve of the American people and how, for a short time, we stood together with complete disregard for all our other problems.

9/11/2001, a date which shall live in infamy. Yet we shall forever remember the good that came from it. We stood together, we wept, we comforted, we cleaned up, we remembered, we answered our nations call, we fought back and we let the terrorist know that you may have blackened our eye, but you will NEVER weaken the spirit of the American people. That is something to remember and celebrate.