Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11/07 -- a day of contemplation

Just as my parents and grandparents never forgot where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed, my generation will always remember where we were when planes loaded with Americans crashed into the twin towers, the Pentagon, and that Pennsylvania field. On 9/11/01 I was on the job in a long term care facility in Beatrice NE. Walking down a resident hall, I heard the sound of soft weeping from several patient rooms and went to investigate. One elderly man said while blowing his nose, "They'll never learn. No matter what becomes of them, they'll never learn." I asked him what he meant. He held a handkerchief against his eyes to blot the flow of tears and gestured towards the TV. I saw the New York City skyline and the smoking towers. "This time the sonsabitches brought it to our doorsteps."

I sat for several minutes with my arm around his shoulder before proceeding to the lobby. Patients and employees huddled together there. The nursing home owner said quietly, "The towers won't stand up under such heat. Pretty soon that steel will melt and they'll fall." We all waited until they fell. Employees comforted patients forced to relive Pearl Harbor Day. Patients comforted employees watching this attack on American soil live and in color. Everyone cried for the passengers on each plane and for the poor working stiffs trapped in burning, collapsing buildings. Later we cried together again for the Pentagon employees, and again for the plane forced down in that field by passengers determined to prevail against armed terrorists. Our minds could barely absorb what we were seeing and hearing.

The ensuing years have introduced us to the many heroes who died that day -- or did their jobs despite the possibility that they might die -- the firemen, police officers, military, and common everyday citizens who rallied to save lives at Ground Zero. We remember politicians who showed us what they were made of by either striding those streets bravely, soot covered and choking, through clouds of smoke and burning fuel, or hiding in safe places. And we knew that day was a turning point of sorts, one that would impact the entire world because someone attacked Americans on their own soil.

I'm an American who holds strong opinions but rarely voices them. For example, I think countries should take care of their own people first and foremost. Education, health care, a healthy national budget, and infrastructure should come first, ahead of war and subsidies to other countries. I DO believe in a strong military in place to protect our own soil. And I DO believe that any country with the poor judgment to attack us on our home ground should have that favor returned in spades. Yes, someone will tell me I can't have it both ways. I can't have a protectionist philosophy and a "paybacks are hell" mentality at the same time. Well, yes I can hold such schizophrenic thoughts today, thinking back.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be better. For today, we'll fly our flag here on the Ponderosa and I'll drive to work with my car lights on. That will be my small way of honoring that day six years ago, of respecting the memory of those who died then and the thousands who have died in war since. And I'll say a special prayer for the "angry giant" awakened on Pearl Harbor Day -- the giant not allowed to sleep or rest since -- and for the cowardly attackers who plot from hiding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Laurel is a dear and valued friend of mine. For those who read this, you won’t know me but she will. I read Laurel's blog and until today have abstained from commenting on it. Not because it isn’t worthy of comment, instead my comments are rarely worthy of her writing.

Today’s entry hit me very hard. Laurel has always had the gift of communicating through the written word and this is no exception. I actually felt her pain and the pain of her fellow nurses and patients. I also felt her pride and her despair. You can have your cake and eat it to Laurel. Never feel as though your demands on a civil society and great nations are schizophrenic. Your words ring true to this reader and your expectations realistic.

Thank you...

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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