To the point week of 09-11-08


SEVEN YEARS. IT SEEMS LIKE a lifetime ago, but today marks the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon.

It was September 11th, 2001, when all of America was shaken by the news reports of what was first thought to be a terrible airline accident; only to find a short time later that it was an orchestrated series of attacks.

Two planes into the World Trade Centers. Another into the Pentagon. A fourth crashing into a Pennsylvania field, thought to be heading toward the White House or the Capitol Building.

As we all watched those towers fall, one after the other, we all realized that our lives – and the lives of our children and grandchildren – were changing forever.

Our middle daughter, Emily, was to go to Madison to a classmate’s birthday party that night. I remember wondering if we should send her or not.

Was there more to come? Would these first attacks spawn more acts of terror?

I also remember looking up into the night sky after all commercial flights had been grounded. The sight of airplanes flying overhead was something that all of us had gotten used to – and at that moment, with the skies completely empty, it seemed like a scene from some science fiction movie.

But it wasn’t a movie – it was real.

Now here we are, seven years removed from that day. All of those changes that we knew were coming have now not only come, but they are a part of what we know consider to be “normal” life.

You get to the airport early because security is more intense. The Department of Homeland Security is now a cabinet-level post in the federal government.

The Patriot Act gives the government more freedom to look into the personal lives of citizens, sometimes without due cause.

My wife is a first grade teacher, and its interesting to note that none of the children in her class this year were alive when September 11th, 2001 happened.

To them, and to those who follow behind them, 9/11 will always be a piece of history. They won’t remember a time when you didn’t have to take off your shoes at the airport. They will only know the Twin Towers through historic photographs.

The Freedom Tower that will be built to replace the World Trade Centers will become the symbol of our country’s determination and strength – and the memories of the rubble of fallen buildings and the heroism of fallen heroes will move to the background.

Like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; the day in Dallas when President Kennedy was shot; the Challenger explosion; and the senseless acts at Columbine – history continues to move us forward. For some, those memories are etched deeply into our memories, but for others, they are paragraphs in a history book.

They see photos and read first-hand accounts, and they write term papers about those days.

But they didn’t live them.

And – let’s hope – that they never do.

Seven years later our brave troops are still hunting Osama bin Laden. This country recently lost its 500th soldier in Afghanistan, the country where it is believed that bin Laden is hiding out.

It was March 19th, 2003 when the Iraq War officially began – so many five year olds have never known a time of peace.

Tonight (Thursday) the citizens of Patriot will again gather at their downtown park/memorial to obverse the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. They will light candles and hear important words about keeping memories and the American spirit alive.

It will be an important time, and I not only encourage each Switzerland County adult to attend and support this observance; but I also encourage everyone to take their children and grandchildren.

It will begin at approximately 8 p.m. with a candlelight walk from the firehouse to the park; and there will be other special events to mark the anniversary.

Let’s all make a commitment to not allow September 11th, 2001 to fall simply into the pages of a history book. For those of us who remember that day comes a responsibility to tell our story and teach our lessons to those who will come behind us.

As the philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”