Every November some newscaster asks, "Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?" And I always think of my advanced college grammar class. A student burst through the door, shouting the news with tears running down her cheeks. We all made a dive for the library where there were television sets. This morning I awoke to almost the same question, "Where were you when terrorist hijackers guided planes into the twin towers in New York on this day eight years ago?"
That morning I was rushing around, getting ready for work, when one of my daughters called to tell me to turn on the TV. She was nearly hysterical because her soldier husband was on assignment in the middle east. Like most of the world I watched as the Pentagon was hit and the Pennsylvania heroes took matters into their own hands. I cried and sometimes I just stared at the television screen in numb shock, unable to understand how anyone could be so devoid of human compassion as to slaughter innocent people in such a senseless way.
The following day as I drove to work, I passed hundreds of American flags lining the streets. They too brought tears to my eyes as I thought of all the people doing such a simple thing as flying a flag to show their support for the victims' families and for our country.
Eight years later, I'm aware of all the snide comments that have been made in publications and on the internet concerning our flag. Some feel flags are silly, old fashioned, and meaningless. Some think that by insulting our flag, they're more clever and informed than the rest of us. And some imagine the flag is a symbol of some kind of tyranny. But to me, the flag stands for those occasions such as that morning eight years ago when we were a united country with our politics and prejudices taking a back seat. The flag stands for the hopes and dreams of every man, woman, and child who believes in freedom. It stands for the men and women, such as my son-in-law and the sons and daughters of friends and family, who stepped forward to protect our land, our homes, and our freedom. It means I can worship God according to my own faith and conscience; it means I can protest against elected officials with whom I disagree, and it means I can own property and follow my own dreams.
Last year while we were visiting Washington DC where my son-in-law was still being treated at Walter Reed, we visited the memorial at the Pentagon. I find myself thinking today of all those who died there that day. Even at the Pentagon, there were small children who died, innocent passengers on the hijacked plane.
With the passage of time, we tend to distance ourselves from that tragic day. Some think it was just New York that was affected, but that isn't true and we need to remember the soldiers, firemen, and airline passengers from all over this country that died or were injured. Not all of the victims were Americans; some were visitors from other lands. In addition to the huge loss of human life there were massive financial repercussions, but perhaps the saddest loss of all is the loss of innocent trust. Curiosity about other beliefs and customs has been replaced with suspicion of differences.
Yet as long as I see the star spangled banner floating in the air, I continue to have hope for a better tomorrow, a belief in the innate goodness of people, and a fervent belief that freedom is worth striving for.
Where were you when you heard of the 9/11 tragedy?