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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

9/11: The Legacy of Sacrifice***

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, September 7, 2008
*Rushville (IN) Republican, September 11, 2008

as "9/11: A tragedy but also a lesson"
*Pella, IA Chronicle
September 12, 2008
as "9/11: A tragedy but also a lesson"

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey

Seven years ago this week, in the space of two hours, the world was changed. Our nation was changed. We were changed.

We were suddenly and brutally taken from a world of the familiar and plunged into another world. A world of dark uncertainty. A world dominated by shock, pain and horror.

At first, our senses refused to accept the reality of the images transmitted to us. Desperately, we were hoping that the disaster unfolding before our eyes was some Hollywood concoction, or perhaps just a bad dream.

But as time passed, we had to accept the fact that our worst nightmare had become reality.

This week, we remember.

We remember the shock, the sorrow and, yes, the anger we felt that morning.

We remember the horror we felt as we watched the deaths of innocent people.

But we also remember those moments on that terrible day when we reached out to each other and found comfort, discovering that for those linked by the common experience of a terrible tragedy, there is no such word as “stranger.”

For Pennsylvanians, like New Yorkers and the folks at the Pentagon, 9/11 is a personal memory, although it certainly could be said that, for Americans, everything that happened that day was personal. Because the clearest memories are personal memories.

This week, we especially remember the passengers and crew of Flight 93; people, who when confronted with the face of terror and the threat of death, set aside their fears, and acted with extraordinary courage and unity.

Their united act was a bright ray of light on what was one of the darkest days in America’s history.

They embodied the words of President Reagan, when he said, “They counted on America to be passive. They counted wrong.”

They have been continually described as “ordinary Americans.” But to their loved ones, they were far from ordinary.

They were husbands and wives, loved and adored by their spouses.

They were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cherished by their families.

And they were fathers and mothers, loved and idolized by their children.

Before they were heroes to us, they were already heroes to them.

The heroes of Flight 93 have taught us the importance of standing up when our fear tells us to sit down; to step forward when our fear urges us to stand still; to be strong when our fear compels us to be weak.

We must take that sense of purpose and make it part of what we are so that the memory of those who fell on Sept. 11 will live on through us all.

Their loss will continue to have meaning only as long as we are willing to remember the circumstances and character of their passing.

On Sept. 11, 2001, America suffered a great tragedy. But as the smoke cleared on that terrible day, we learned that although we had been badly wounded, we were not defeated. We were bowed, but never broken.

On this week of remembrance, we walk in the footsteps of those whose memory we honor by choosing action over inaction; choosing courage over fear; and choosing to look past our differences and stand united.

This is their legacy to us.
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