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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 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.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, September 09, 2011

Promising the Past to the Future*

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
September 11, 2011
as "A commitment to remember"
Ten Years.

Yes, it’s been that long since the bright sunshine of a late-summer’s day was darkened by the cloak of terrorism.  America hadn’t experienced the ravages of war since the silence of an April day in 1865. But on September 11, 2001, our country was brought face-to face with war’s brutal realities.

The recollections remain, enduring in crystal-clear digital video and photo images.  And in our hearts, the memory of almost 3,000 innocent humans who lost their lives, and the living pain of countless thousands who mourn them still.

It was a day that began with sheer mind-numbing disbelief; shock, horror, and fear.  But it was a day that ended with a rare feeling of national unity.  

For those associated with Flight 93, on this day, we remember the past; but we also dedicate a future.

This morning, people will gather at a new memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  After a decade of ceaseless dedicated efforts, the Flight 93 National Memorial has been dedicated.

The story of Flight 93 has resonated deeply.  From across the country and around the world, people have come to this field of honor. 

They came on warm days in summer, when the sun shone and the grass grew thick and green; 

They came on winter days when frigid winds knifed across the valley and every object lay encased in ice or buried in snow.  

They came in the crisp air of fall, amid trees ablaze in the breath-taking colors of autumn.  

And they came in spring, when the breezes blew soft and warm and wildflowers carpeted the field.  

They did not make that pilgrimage frivolously.  They came to remember.  

There is something inherently noble in acts of determined heroism, especially when those acts are undertaken by seemingly ordinary people.  Their example demonstrated to us that the only thing that separates a hero from any one of us is not the lack of fear, but the will to act.

A memorial exists for one purpose:  To carry a memory and a message into the future.  On that field today, one promise will be fulfilled, a promise made 10 years ago, that September 11th, 2001 would never be forgotten.

Today, a new promise is being made.

Time passes.  People who were once young grow old and eventually pass beyond this life.  Along with their lives, their memories are lost to us as well.  

Today, we of this time and place will make a promise:  That this remembrance will live on.  We promise that the shining example of 40 people who stood in unity on a dark day of disaster will live for generations to come.  And the spirit of national unity that once shone so bright will survive to shine again.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain spoke of the battlefield of Gettysburg,

“Reverent men and women from afar,
And generations that know us not
Shall come to this field to ponder and dream;
And that power of the vision will pass into their souls.”

The sun was sinking in the west as I climbed the hill known as Little Round Top.  The day was ending under a sky painted in gold and purple.  In the quiet of that sunset, I beheld the field before me, refelcting on the battle that had torn this ground; and the blood that had been spilled.  I thought of the courage and the sacrifice; the price that had been paid for my freedom.

Nearby, a young family also stood atop the hill.  Suddenly, the thin voice of their child broke the silence with a question, “Daddy, what happened here?”

Her father knelt down, put his arm around her shoulders, and the story of Gettysburg was passed to a new generation.

Perhaps a century from now, another young family will stand in that field near Shanksville, and once again, that question will be asked:  “What happened here?”

We are charged by the future to remember the past; to bring forward in time accounts of heroism and unity that have sustained, and saved our nation.

As long as there is a United States of America; as long as there are people who honor courage and selfless sacrifice, this memorial will tell the story of September 11th and the brave people of United Airlines Flight 93.  

A promise has been kept.  We now make a new promise; a promise to the future:

To Teach,
To Honor,
To Remember.


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