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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.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

9/11: Remembering Together*

Members of Congress stand together in unity on September 11th, 2001
They spontaneously sang "God Bless America."

(This photo is on a lot of websites and I was unable to
track down the identity of the original photographer.)

*Somerset, PA Daily American
September 11, 2010
as "Remembering Together"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Nine years ago today, the world changed before our very eyes. Our delusion of safety and security had been toppled and shattered. In New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 2,977 lives were lost.

Terrorism, up till that day, had been something foreign; always occurring far away in countries with hard-to-pronounce names. Even the deaths of 168 people in Oklahoma City failed to shake our complacency.

We live in a different world now. We walk through our days, glancing over our shoulders. When we travel, we are subjected to scans, pokes and prods; our suitcases are opened and our personal possessions pawed through. Once, we would’ve called this an invasion of privacy. Now, we passively accept such measures as necessary.

And yet, not all the change was bad.

In the days and weeks following 9/11, the United States experienced a unity of spirit and purpose unmatched since World War II. We stopped arguing with each other, and began to help each other. We stopped pointing fingers, and started to join hands. It was the dawning of a new day, arising fresh and new from what was the darkest of nights.

But it didn’t take long for the mood to change. Politicians returned to their trenches, and pundits on both sides suddenly remembered that they were being paid millions of dollars to keep us angry at each other. And anger, they smugly whispered, meant ratings.

The attacks have since been twisted in every conceivable direction. What was once the common ground of a re-united nation is now a fissure; one that widens a bit more every day.

We can blame the politicians and the pundits, but the real blame lies at the feet of every one of us. We elected those politicians. We watch and listen to the pundits. And instead of dismissing their divisive tirades, we joined them. And in so doing, we lost our way.

Because of cell phones and flight recorders, we know most of what went on aboard Flight 93. We know that the passengers and crew made a courageous decision to fight back, even waiting until they were over rural land before commencing their assault. Some of the details are missing, but there is one thing that we know for certain.

Nobody took a poll about political affiliation. They didn’t debate any political issues. They stood up together, made a decision together, and carried it out. Together.

In the mad rush to evacuate the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, there were a thousand stories of individual heroism as ordinary people put themselves at mortal risk to help others. Nobody prefaced the offer to help with a check of voter registration cards, or argued the merits of Middle East policy. They reached out to each other; they supported each other, and exited the building. Together.

On 9/11 and in the days following, we shared our grief. We held each other up; we talked together; we helped each other get through those difficult days. We didn’t dwell on party ideology, because we knew instinctively that there were far more things uniting us, than dividing us.

A broken heart knows no political party. The path of healing is one lane, not two.

9/11 is not about politics. It’s not about ideology.

It is about the spirits of people who occupy a space where two mighty towers stand no more. It’s about the echoes of those who roam the hallways of a concrete battleship moored along the Potomac. It’s about the souls of 40 ordinary people who stood as one.

And, it is about their families who today will shed tears and feel the heartache of a wound that will never completely heal.

Today, crowds of people will gather at the three crash sites. Bells will be rung, names will be read, and somber speeches will be made. And once again, we will remember.

But it is time for something more. It is time for us to remember that those who died did not choose sides. It is time for us to follow their example.

We can heal this nation. We only need to decide.

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