Earlier today I was looking at my calendar and planning things to do for the next month and in tiny muted letters – as the calendar always marks “holidays” the words Patriot Day seemed to whisper a memory.
I was fairly freshly out of UT and still working in Marketing for the food service company there. I’d began a new job traveling from West Virginia to North Georgia working at other small colleges and helping them with their marketing.
On that day I was in my home basement office – typing up purchase orders for some new signage when my boss Fred called and in a hardly decipherable Cajun English garble he mumbled something about planes exploding in New York and that I should turn on the TV.
Like the rest of America and the free world I sat and stared – gobsmacked – while they replayed the plane hitting. Then ANOTHER plane hit it live!
I was sick, I prayed, I fretted and mentally traveled there trying to catch my breath in all the dust that enveloped everything in the images I was seeing on the screen.
I called everyone and told them, I tried to think about what friends might be in NYC or Washington or Shanksville, PA. I had friends who had family in the Twin Towers – I’d be surprised if anyone in America was more than a couple degrees of separation from someone in the wide and varied population that died that day – but I lost nobody that I knew directly.
In this – the season of Patriot Day – 18 years removed – it’s amazing how much the terrorists have taken from us. How much fear has grown and metastasized through the culture. How many of their own families and interests have been obliterated in both retaliation, escalation and hatred. And how America has gotten more like them – hate and love have always been a large part of our culture and that of the terrorist perpetrators of that day.
I remember the blossoming of Americana in the ensuing days, the sad memorials, the striking stories and quirky incidents. The awe inspiring Freedom tower that rose from the ashes and the moment of panic that rose in my stomach a few weeks ago when I was waiting in the mile-long TSA line when I noticed my (ever-present) pocket knife was in my stuff as I was getting ready to board a plane.
Life has changed. People are more polarized, untrusting and patriotic for what they believe is right. But worst of all the freedom that we all enjoyed has given way to an insular protectionism that values safety over liberty and often those who wish it was like before (like me) are becoming relics.
I am heartened working with my young cousin, my intern, in her second year of college. She who was 3 years old when the planes took down the towers. She grew up in this world and is flourishing. She and other young people in my family are not like my generation – they have hope and irresistible optimism. That hope and love of God and each other is all we’ve got to build upon.