September 11, 2001 A Difficult Season For Our Nation
My family lives only 200 miles away from the former World Trade Center in New York City
The following article was published by me in our local newspaper a few weeks after 9/11.
One day in late September, 2001, my husband and I pulled into a rest stop near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We had just begun our vacation, and we were headed for Myrtle Beach and Daytona Beach.
This year was different. There was no way to escape "it." I had found it difficult to function since September 11, and the hole I felt in the pit of my stomach had not even begun to close. I looked at everything around me with new eyes.
Everywhere, reminders of the horrific attacks on America lingered, like the green plague cloud in the movie, "The Ten Commandments."
While my husband, Dave, stood on the walk at a rest stop waiting for me, two sheriffs parked their cars near ours. Dogs barked in their back seats. Dave asked one of the men if they had been to New York City.
The man needed to talk. He and his companion were returning home to Knoxville, Tennessee, from the World Trade Center site. He told Dave that the pictures of the destroyed buildings did not do any justice. His job had been to do a cadaver search with the dogs.
They had recovered twenty-five bodies, and the dogs were beat.
He said he had worked sixteen-hour days and had blisters on his feet. He added he was hurrying to get home. By that time I had joined my husband, and I just stood there, listening.
Throughout our trip, any conversation overheard in hotels, shopping malls and restaurants centered around concerns about the future of America. Billboards displayed, "United We Stand' and "God Bless America." Cars sported "Proud To Be An American" bumper stickers. We could have purchased a patriotic T-Shirt in any store or gas station. Flags of all sizes flew on the tops of buildings, cars and construction machinery.
Each day I logged our trip --as well as current news events --in my journal. Frustrated, I wrote, "How do I live my life while I do live? What do I say to a wounded world shattered in disbelief, shock and despair over the threat of terrorism?'
Attempting to answer my own question I penned, "Live the moment. Embrace each second of the air you breathe. It's God's gift to you. Inhale, smell, taste, hear, see and savor the beauty of the earth, the magnificent sun, the unchanging moon, the twinkling stars, loyal in their appearance."
"Treasure each season. Do all you have ever dreamed of doing, and do it now. Function. Embrace your friends, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers."
"Mend fences and broken bridges. Get rid of any junk that clutters your life. Stop repeating the same patterns. Be aware of angel sightings in human and spiritual form. Never take for granted the Force Who gave you life. Be a miracle hunter and share what you find with everyone."
At a flea market in Myrtle Beach, a woman I bought a shirt from said, "It's too bad something like this has to happen before America becomes patriotic. We should have flown our flags before this."
Perhaps she has a point. However, I believe Americans do appreciate their freedom, and we have always been patriotic. I see it each 4th of July when we celebrate our independence and cheer during the fireworks. I view it on television at the beginning of sports events when The Star Spangled Banner is sung and Americans wave and shout. I feel it at my Toastmaster's Club meeting when we salute the flag.
There are seasons when we decorate for annual events--pumpkins on Halloween; rabbits and eggs at Easter; Christmas decorations to celebrate the birth of Christ. We are now in a season where America is in prayer, mourning and retaliation, and we proudly display our colors to the world.
After listening to the sheriff at the rest stop I said, "God bless you, drive safe." The man got into his car. He sat for a moment, then motioned for my husband to come over. He handed Dave a piece of yellow "caution" tape. He had written in it with a black marker, "WTC 2001/Ground Zero" and he wanted us to have it.
As I put together a memorial album to hand down to our family, the yellow 'caution' tape will be laminated on one of the pages as a memento of the day America will never forget.
However, we must remember that there is one thing in common with every single disaster that has hit the United States: AMERICA HAS SURVIVED. We are not a weak nation. I am proud to be an American. God bless our nation.