This week Joe Paradis asked”What will you be doing?” we offer his Tuesday column again and ask, what will you be doing and what have you done? For we know that on that day, many did all. From the first responders in Washington and New York, to the brave patriots on flight 93.
Thank you to the 2.9 million young men and women that have volunteered over ten years to fight the war against terror. Also thanks to the federal government workers involved in the defense of our nation, for your efforts have kept America moving forward.
To the staff of both presidents in these ten years, thank you for understanding that the top priority must be the defense of our nation. Thank you to president Bush and Obama for knowing that an attack on our land must be avoided and defended at all costs.
Much has been done in ten years, what has not been done is a successful terrorist attack on our nation by the enemy. Thank you all and thank God for that.
As we turn our eyes to the next post 9/11 decade, we pray for peace, protection and prosperity of our community, state and nation.
Steve, Kathy, all our staff and volunteers send blessings to you all.
I heard it vaguely on the radio in the background, as I got ready for work. I thought the newsman said that an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I assumed it was a small airplane that probably had a mechanical malfunction and went wayward, slamming into the building. It had happened before. I remember saying a quick prayer for the two or three people who, I’m sure, lost their lives that beautiful sunny morning in downtown Manhattan. And I headed out the door, sadly without much more than that brief prayer on my mind.
Half an hour later, while at work, I heard that another plane had slammed into the World Trade Center – this one into the second tower. I thought that, well…odd. We switched on the news and I listened a lot more carefully to this newsman. Details were sketchy, but he related how two commercial aircraft had apparently been hijacked out of Boston and Newark, left their normal flight patterns to California, and entered New York City airspace where they slammed into the towers. I just stood there, thinking “what the hell is this?” The towers were ablaze and incredibly, the network showed people leaping from windows 80 stories up and firemen rushing into the two skyscrapers as hundreds of employees began oozing out of the lobbies and emergency exits.
At work, we began to speculate whether John, our office manager and a Navy veteran, might have to go back into the service. He said no way and we grinned. But each of us harbored thoughts about what this all meant. Who would intentionally fly a commercial airliner into a major skyscraper? Who hated those people that much?
An hour later, we got the news that another airplane had slammed into the Pentagon, near Washington DC. I remember thinking ‘this doesn’t happen in America – it’s an act of war.’ Someone would pay dearly for this, I was certain. The word “terrorism” became a staple in America’s vocabulary that day. Osama bin Laden became a household name.
Not long after that we heard of another airliner that crashed in a grassy field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. It took a while to get information on this one, but it seemed that a group of men had tried to hijack that plane as well. But through the grace of God and the courage of some brave passengers who rushed the hijackers and ruined their plans, that plane didn’t hit another building. It crashed with a horrific booming sound into that open field. We later learned that some of the passengers had called their families during that flight and told them they were being hijacked and were going to confront their assailants. There were final farewells, kisses and words of “I love you” to spouses kids and families – just minutes before these brave souls met their own deaths. No one really knows, but the general consensus is that that airliner was headed for the White House or the Capitol building.
President Bush received word of these catastrophic events as he was reading a book out loud to a group of elementary school children in Florida. The cameras caught his reaction. He nodded, swallowed hard, and probably with more determination than he had ever display till that day, continued reading that book. He later said he did not want to panic those children, by rushing out – and he actually had no idea of the extent of the tragedies. So he continued reading, then calmly thanked the class and walked out. The Secret Service whisked him off to Air Force One, which remained in the air for many hours. The military believed we were under attack and the Secret Service was not about to let the President return to the White House – or anywhere else other than Air Force One, which suddenly became the seat of government, as is the design when there is am eminent threat to the government.
All this news came fast. No one had any interest in work. We sat stunned, watching the office television as new information came in continuously. We eventually went home to continue watching the horror. The Pentagon was in flames, a large aircraft protruding from its west wall. The twin towers in New York City suddenly began to fall, story by story, like a deck of cards. Huge clouds of debris rose from the site and we watched them hurl down the streets between other buildings, coating those who were trying to flee. A third, smaller tower fell a little bit later. Strangely, I thought what a marvel of engineering those buildings were – they collapsed on top of themselves, rather than tipping over. Who knows how many countless others were saved from certain death because of that? It was little consolation.
Television thankfully, couldn’t bring the real horror into our homes – the screams of people burning to death as they frantically tried to exit those buildings. The sight of workers simply vaporized at their desks when those planes slammed into their offices. The sheer terror of the passenger on those airliners as they sat helplessly while airline crews were butchered in front of them or fellow passengers fought with assailants – just before they all hurdled to their deaths.
It was a surreal day – my kids’ equivalent of the JFK assassination in 1963. Everyone from my generation can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing when we heard that news. It will be no less with this generation.
Feeling quite helpless, we didn’t really know what to do that day. We took our flag from the basement and taped it to our mailbox. Someone stole it an hour later. You couldn’t buy an American flag for months afterwards. We gathered the kids and went to Church, where fellow parishioners were also streaming in. Father Bob held an impromptu memorial service. We still didn’t know everything that had happened, but we knew we all needed God that night.
Here we are ten years later. Tens of thousands of our military members have served in the Middle East since then, avenging this horrendous deed unleashed upon three thousand innocent civilians. Too many of them have also died bravely for that cause. I personally know of ten – yes, TEN – young men who will never return to their homes in New Hampshire. One was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross – but all of them are truly heroes…not many of us volunteer these days to get shot at.
My own son serves right now in Afghanistan, carrying on the fight against these terrorists who want to see America in ruins and all of us dead. These terrorists twist the tenets of their religion to justify this war against Western ideals. They haven’t lessened their hatred of us, even as America grows wary of war and many seem to forget why we send our family members over to the Middle East to begin with. Ask any Israeli about that phenomenon.
We have a new American flag on our mailbox these days, along with a Marine Corps flag in honor of our son. They’ve proudly flown, side by side, for years now, flapping in the wind with every passing car. Last week, someone stole the Marine Corps flag. Thankfully they left the yellow ribbon… Don’t get me started about the integrity of the Corps and how someone could live with the thought of stealing that flag, especially given the reason it was there…
What’s with America these days?
It will be interesting to see how we remember 9-11 next week. Will America honor the 10th “anniversary” of that fatal day as it now does Pearl Harbor – as some vague “holiday” whose date most can’t even recall? Or will we turn inward, pray to God, and firmly resolve that something like 9-11 can never happen to us again? I’m not convinced…
Nonetheless, I will be at the airport next Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 8:46 a.m., as TSA employees around the nation briefly cease their operations and pause for a moment of silence and prayer to honor America’s latest darkest hour. Something they’ve done every year since 2001.
May God help America to continue to help itself. We must never forget…
What will you be doing?