9/11─The day that changed America forever. A new generation now exists that will never know the America that was not on constant alert for terrorist strikes or other dangers of attack. They will probably live their entire life being driven with a continual element of fear. Many would say this was the day America lost its innocence.
For those of us who are teens or adults, we will always be able to recall our exact location when it took place. On September 11, 2001, my first granddaughter was 11 months old, and my second was due in 3 weeks. I had started a new job exactly 2 months prior to the day. Coworkers were strangers to me. I was still learning the ropes. The first plane hit, and most people dismissed it as a terrible accident. But before we could take in the extent of what had happened, we gathered around to watch live TV as the second plane flew directly into the other tower. It was obviously no mishap. Then the news trickled onto the screen about the Pentagon being hit, and then a plane going down in Pennsylvania.
In a matter of only a few minutes families were decimated, and the spirit of America was tried like the present generations had never seen before. I dare to say, it was more emotionally taxing than hearing over the loudspeaker in the school gym about President Kennedy’s assassination, and much more frightening. People just wanted to be held, or get to their children in school, to hold them. Perhaps those who lived through the bombing of Pearl Harbor may have felt similar trauma when we were drawn into World War II.
Later, as the towers fell, first responders bravely and without hesitation attempted to save others, but lost their own lives. Thousands of Americans died that day. Life as we knew it was ripped apart. The heart of our nation groaned and heaved from the pain and trauma of the terror we had experienced. We lost so much that day… but, we are Americans.
For all we lost as a result of the evil blow dealt on 9/11, in some strange manner we also gained some things. There were American flags almost every few yards, visible in every direction, sometimes seen for miles. Neighbors were unselfishly reaching out to one another. For the first time in my 49 years of life, I saw masses of people flocking to houses of worship as their most needed answers and consolation would be found there. In Washington, D.C., it was as if a pilgrimage were taking place when countless individuals made their way to the National Cathedral, which ironically, was damaged during the recent earthquake that hit eastern states. The day of prayer seemed to cause an air of supernatural reassurance to lovingly hover over our nation, reassuring us we still remained in Divine hands. The grief intermingled with the spirit of America, and what a spirit we Americans possess. We gained a clear understanding of “brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”
On 9/11 and the days that immediately followed, I saw the America our forefathers intended—one nation, under God, and all men/women created equal. I heard the words echoing in the distance, “I have a dream…” Our fallen President Kennedy’s speech played in my heart, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And we did. We banded together with a spirit of unity I had never seen before, and sadly, have not seen since.
We are at a time in America where every way you turn there is division, whether it is regarding politics, economics, religion, sexuality or even divisiveness over the fact of God’s very existence. We still walk in a bit of fear of our vulnerability to other attacks, even after the past 10 years. Let us NEVER lose sight of the cohesion we need to remain the nation we were on that day, the people who stood as one! If we ever needed to learn and apply the FOURTH verse (hear it) of our blessed Star Spangled Banner, now is that time. In indignation over the start of the Civil War, Oliver Wendell Holmes added a fifth stanza:
When our land is illumined with liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strikes a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that tries to defile
The flag of the stars, and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained,
Who their birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.
My prayer is this—that as we reflect on what happened on this fertile ground those ten years ago, let us please renew the spirit that existed at that time. Let us not be defeated, not by fear, pride, division or indifference. Bring back the integrity, character and brotherhood we so proudly stood for, and upon which we were established all those years ago. Regain what we lost! Remember, we are the land of the free, the home of the brave— the United States of America!