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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.

Monday, September 06, 2010

9/11: The Real Memorial*

A memorial to an act of courage and sacrifice takes shape
behind a flag borne of courage and sacrifice.

*Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat
September 11, 2010
as "Our Finest Memorial Would Be National Unity"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

9/11 was a deeply profound moment in our history; an event that utterly changed the attitude, and outlook of some 350 million Americans. No single event in the last 20 years has been written and commented upon more.

Nine years later, we still pause on this day to remember. We do this because we paid too high a price to forget.

Some may scoff and say that the passage of years has softened the event’s recollection. But think about the day that Air Force One did its low-level photo pass over Manhattan with two F-16 fighter jets in escort. That the huge jetliner was cloaked in that familiar white and blue motif with the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA boldly printed on the side made no difference to those on the ground. Their immediate reaction was one of visceral horror and fear.

Clearly, we haven’t yet “moved on.”

Such events are deeply etched into the national memory. We regularly honor those anniversaries because deep inside, we know that freedom is our most valued possession, and there will always be those who desire to take it away. In the face of those attacks, our defense has always been successful. But while we celebrate victories, we will always remember the cost that was exacted.

While in the Navy during the 1980’s, I came to know some of the Pearl Harbor survivors. Though 45 years had passed, time had not dulled their emotions. They still shed tears over friends who died on that December 7th.

We can say that this is a different generation, one that doesn’t hold grudges. But regardless of what people might claim, I have seen enough of those passions to know that even on September 11, 2051 there will still be many who will pause; remember; and shed tears.

But it’s not just about remembering death; it’s also about remembering honor, sacrifice, and courage. There are probably a thousand stories from the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers of how individuals risk their lives to save others. And there are just as likely a thousand more we will never know because those acts died with those buildings, dissolving in roiling clouds of smoke and dust. We are fortunate that the courageous actions of the passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 were preserved through cell phone conversations and flight recorders

One of my favorite Ronald Reagan quotes is, “They counted on America to be passive. They counted wrong.” It is in our national character to resist; to fight back; to refuse to go quietly into the night. Our enemies have always mistaken our political divisions as a sign of weakness. What they have found out, to their cost, is that even though we may be mired in the most divisive of arguments, once we’re attacked, the debate ends. We link arms, and take care of business, all with a unity and grim sense of purpose that is awesome to behold.
I will always remember the scene that unfolded that night on the steps of the capital, when members of congress stood together in unity, spontaneously singing “God Bless America.” Watching at home, I wept unashamedly.

The United States of America was tested that day. And We the People passed that test. We dissolved our differences and stood together. We spoke with one voice.

We felt with one heart.

Let us remember the unity of those days, and vow to unite again. Let us, here; now; highly resolve that those 3,000 shall not have died in vain.

Let us make national unity our true memorial to 9/11.
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