Monday, September 10, 2012
Reflection & Remembering
Eleven years already, wow. It doesn't seem that long ago. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was a 16yr old girl and had just finished high school that May and began my first semester at college just the day before 9/11. I was an Explorer (Junior Firefighter/EMT) on a local fire department at that time. My aunt called and woke me that morning and told me to turn on CNN; I did just as the second tower was hit. I watched, helplessly with the rest of the country as the towers fell, the Pentagon was hit, the heroic passengers took down the fourth & final airborne missile in a Pennsylvania field. That afternoon, I made my way to my fire department and sat silently with my fellow first responders as we watched the continuing coverage.
In the days and weeks to come, our department back in Illinois sent firefighters trained in search and rescue to NYC, as many other departments around the country did. There were candlelight vigils, somber rememberance ceremonies, discussions of the war the attacks would surely provoke. We heard the names of those lost read out as rescue operations transitioned to recovery. I did not know anyone personally who lost their life on 9/11, but being on the fire dept made the 343 FDNY lost hit close to home. I was a young woman, mature in some ways and still a child in others, and as much hurt & anger as I felt that Tuesday, I still had no idea how much more this catastrophe would alter my life.
In the years to come, I would become a military wife. I would send my older brother and my husband off to war.....once, at the same time. I watched everything I'd known from the peaceful childhood country I'd grown up in, be changed in an instant. Security at the airport was tightened like a noose. Each anniversary would bring the ceremonies, the news clips that forced us to relive the moments time stood still, the names read by the spouse or child of the lost. Heart breaking and just as raw an emotion as it was the morning it happened.
We lost a lot on 9/11. Thousands of innocent lives taken in an instant of extremist cowardice. Thousands of men & women killed in the wars inspired by the terror attacks. Tens of thousands more military members wounded in battle. Two gorgeous architectural feats that stood as examples of America's superiority no longer graced the NYC skyline. Thousands of children growing up without a parent. It's not fair and the hurt & pain is thick enough to suffocate at times.
But, though we lost so much, we have gained much more. We saw the selflessness in service of our first responders in the face of the insurmountable task of rescue & recovery. We came together as a country to offer support to the families directly impacted. We watched our young men and women step forward and volunteer to leave their own families for a hell halfway around the world and engage in seemingly endless combat operations. Military families supporting their troops through multiple deployments. National security has taken priority.
United we watched and we hurt.
But America did not give up......We got up!
As one we have remembered, we have grieved, we have begun to heal, we have strengthened, we have come together as one nation united for one common purpose......to preserve our freedoms and defend our way of life.
Watching the services again this year will remind me once more of the initial hurt, the subsequent sacrifice, the struggle of how & when to explain this tragedy & it's effects on our family to my little boy. I will spend quiet moments alone, as I have for several years, to just pause and pray.
I still don't understand and I doubt that I ever will. Similarly, I know the hurt will not ever completely dissipate. But what I do know is I was lucky enough to be born American. I live in a country that rallies behind the underdogs. A country that sets no limits to success because of my gender. A country perhaps wounded, but strengthened with resolve and determination to fight for our freedoms and for those who were stolen from us that morning.
Pause a moment this Tuesday September 11th, 2012 and remember the significance of this anniversary and the thousands of American families who have a photo or a folded flag to hold in place of a loved one. Take a moment to truly appreciate the life you are free to live here and the possibilities afforded to your children, that have been historically paid for with the blood of our fallen heroes. Gaze at your flag as it sways in the breeze and pray for the men & women who stood united to fight for that very flag and in the end who's caskets have ultimately been draped by that flag. Thank your first responders, whether a small traffic accident or a natural disaster, they willingly put their lives on the line to help strangers every single shift of duty. Teach your children that ignorance breeds hate and hate breeds violence.
New York City Police Department
Fire Department of New York
Port Authority Police Department of New York/New Jersey
Shanksville, PA Fire & Rescue
DC Fire Dept.
Fallen but *never* forgotten