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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.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Sanctity and Responsibility of Remembrance**

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Chicago Tribune
September 9, 2011
as "Today we make a promise to future generations"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
September 10, 2011
as "Today we make a promise to future generations"

Ten Years.

It’s been that long since a brilliant late-summer day was darkened by a series of violent acts, driven by anger and hate.  America, a land that had since 1865 escaped the ravages of war, was brought face-to face with its brutal realities.

The recollections remain, preserved by digital video and photo images that will endure forever.  And in our hearts, the memory of almost 3,000 innocent humans who lost their lives, and the living pain of countless thousands of loved ones and friends who mourn them still.

September 11, 2001 was a day that began with mind-numbing shock and disbelief.  But it was a day that ended with Americans bonded by a new sense of national unity. 

For those associated with Flight 93, this is a day to remember the past. But it is also about dedicating a future.

This morning, after a decade of ceaseless, dedicated, sometimes heart-breaking efforts, the Flight 93 National Memorial will be dedicated.

The story of Flight 93 is one that has resonated deeply.  From across the country and around the world, people have been drawn 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 covered the field. 

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

There is something inherently noble in acts of determined heroism, especially when those acts are undertaken by those who were no different than any of us.  They showed us that the thing that defines a hero 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 near Shanksville today, one promise is fulfilled; the promise we all made a decade ago, that 9/11 would never be forgotten.

Today, another promise is being made.

Time inexorably 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 the shining example of 40 people who stood in unity on a dark day of disaster will live for generations to come.  And that the spirit of national unity that briefly shone so bright will shine once 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 under a sky painted in gold and purple as I climbed the hill known as Little Round Top.  In the quiet of dusk on that hilltop, I reflected 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 that my country would live.

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 the 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 us, and saved this 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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