Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

(just a disclaimer. . .this was not intended to turn into a full-blown, almost-1000-word essay. I just sort of started writing and it took a path of its own. It's long. It probably seems like I'm rambling or changing paths abruptly. I don't blame you if you don't want to read it. But I think you should. ☺)

For my grandparents generation, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For my parents generation, it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

For my generation, it was the attack on our country on September 11, 2001.

Each of these events altered the course of history in a big way. Each time the world changed and we could never go back to how things were. Each time our country united together. Each time we emerged stronger.

Today is September 11, 2010. It has been 9 years since the attacks that so brutally affected our great nation.  September 11, 2001 was the day I realized that the world was not as perfect as my innocent mind wanted to believe it was. I remember exactly where I was that morning...

I woke up, perhaps a little later than normal. That part I do not remember. What I do remember is hearing lots of talking coming from down the hall, and not being conscious enough to understand much of it. But eventually I woke up enough and got up and padded down the hall to figure out what was going on. Turned out that the World Trade Center had been attacked.

At the ripe old age of 14, I don't honestly know if I had ever even heard of the World Trade Center before. But I sure had by the end of that day. All I knew that that point in time, however, was that one of the skyscrapers in New York City had been hit by airplane full of people, and not long after, the second tower was hit as well, right in front of our eyes as we watched on television. I remember being scared.

We lived in Southern California, not far at all from Los Angeles. I wondered if L.A. would become a target on the west coast. What about all the other big cities? Why just New York City? And then the plane struck the Pentagon. And I knew that this was truly an attack on our country, not just on the people of New York, and there was no telling what would happen next.

I worried more, and kept on praying. Everyone was glued to their television sets. Nobody wanted to move. All the news showed was more and more coverage of the attacks. People were jumping out of burning buildings in an attempt to somehow survive. More people were walking out coughing and choking, and New York looked like it would never recover from the smoke and ash. And then the plane crashed in that Pennsylvania field. And the entire nation uneasily waited to hear if there was to be still more devastation. Thankfully, only four planes went down that day. There could’ve been more.

Planes all over the country were grounded.

Millions of people were stranded in airports.

Millions of people did not know if their loved ones were alive.

Millions of people lost those near and dear to their hearts.

And the nation cried.

In the days that followed, our country became the most patriotic I can ever remember it being. Suddenly there were American flags everywhere. Almost every house was flying a flag. People were wearing red, white and blue. Those little car-window flags showed up for sale nearly everywhere you looked. People stuck one, two, maybe even four of those little flags on their car windows, just to show patriotism.

Millions upon millions of people were praying for our country. Patriotic songs on the radio became the norm. I remember one of the radio stations in town played the Ray Charles version of America the Beautiful, which was meshed with part of President Bush's speech to the nation, over and over again. Millions upon millions were suddenly more proud of this country than ever before.

And now I can't help but wonder why it took (takes?) a national tragedy to cause our country to cause the people of this country to become cause us to be aware of our freedoms. Why is prayer seen as a bad thing…until our home is under attack…until it is, apparently, the last resort. Why does our freedom have to be threatened in a huge way before we realize that we probably shouldn’t take it for granted?

Nine years have passed since that fateful day. In nine years our country has changed, grown, and changed some more. The patriotism that people exhibited nine years ago just doesn’t seem as apparent in many people anymore. Our freedoms are challenged every day.

As we pause on this, September 11, 2010, one year away from the ten year anniversary of this great tragedy, let us remember to say “I am proud to be an American.” Let’s not wait for days of tragedy to show our patriotic side. Let’s not wait for days of disaster to come to our country before we fall to our knees to pray.

It seems that each generation has its moment that shakes America. World War II. The assassination of our country’s leaders. A direct attack on our country and our freedoms. Each time the wounds begin to heal and the country puts itself back together. It frightens me to think what sort of shaking moment the next generation will experience. May we, at that point, once again be able to put ourselves back together and go stronger into the future.

And may God Bless America!

- September 11, 2010

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