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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 12, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?**

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Chicago Tribune
September 16, 2011
as "A legacy to share"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
September 17, 2011
as "A legacy to share"
The anniversary has passed.   All weekend long, speeches were made, songs were sung, and ceremonies were conducted across the country while we as a nation solemnly marked the passing of a decade since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
The United States has worn an open wound for ten years.  The trauma of that day, and the days that followed were at times almost too difficult to bear.  Almost 3,000 people, innocents all, whose only crime was going about their normal lives on that day, were murdered in four coordinated acts of sheer hate.
But on this September 11th, we saw signs that perhaps the wound is beginning to close.  We will wear that scar forever, but perhaps now we are starting to heal.
There are now permanent memorials in place and open to the public at all three sites.  The names of those who were lost on that terrible day have been inscribed in stone, to be passed to future generations to honor and remember.
As adults, we measure time by the growth of children.  The children who were barely in elementary school are or will be high school graduates.   We don’t really see significant changes in ourselves over ten years, but in our children we see how time has passed.  Their lives, like ours, were forever altered; their futures will be far different than ours.
On Saturday when the Wall of Names was uncovered, I was visited by urgent thoughts.  I have been to many memorials and seen many lists of names.  But it wasn’t until I visited the Columbine Memorial that I realized that names are not enough.  At that site in Littleton, Colorado the people who were lost that day are remembered with memories from loved ones. The words describe the type of people they were; their personalities and interests.  They had dreams and desires; full lives and bereaved loved ones.  And bright futures denied them by events terrible and violent.
In reading those words, I came to know them, not just as names, but as people.  The forty names engraved on those tablets who were killed on Flight 93, also deserve to be remembered as the people they were.  The names alone will never tell who they were, or what was lost.  We must speak for them and work to ensure that their stories become the legacy we pass on to generations yet to come.  For there will come a time when no one will be left who was awake, alive, and aware on September 11, 2001.  If we of this time and place do not preserve that legacy, then a big part of the meaning and purpose of those memorials will vanish in the mists of time.
That task must be undertaken by us.  Only we can tell our children and grandchildren what those forty people did on that day, and why their sacrifice was so important.  A big part of that is what the Memorial is all about.  But we, too, have a duty to perform – a duty to remember and teach.
We must now look forward from today, and ask that very important question of “where do we go from here?”
Our nation faces a future shrouded in the darkness of doubt and foreboding.  We are divided politically perhaps as deep as we ever were in the Civil War.  Our economy lies on the brink, and we are all learning the bitter lesson that America’s resources are not infinite, but limited.  Once upon a time, the future was a time of unlimited potential; a time when only greatness seemed to await us. 
It is different now.
We are way past civility and respect.  We rail at one another in anger, and even hate, flinging insults like junior high schoolers.  There is no compromise.  And every day, the divide grows ever deeper and wider.
I don’t know what America will be like in a hundred years, or if the America we know today will even exist by then.  Only time will tell.
But as we promised ten years ago to Never Forget, can we find it within ourselves to remember the ideals those people died for?  What accountability will we present to them for our custodianship of this nation?
At that Field of Honor near Shanksville, I saw a glimpse of a nation united; of a people intertwined with each other bound by the love of country.
It was a glimpse that I pray will one day become a vision.
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