In remembering our fallen heroes of conflicts back through the decades, we have always set aside a day as a nation to celebrate our military heroes. This is good and right. Since that fateful day we all know as 9/11, our understanding of the designation “patriot” was broadened.
In a truly bizarre and devastating attack, a nation, even a world, was brought to a new level of awareness of the human nature to defend and protect against evil.
We all know who the heroes are.
The military was there immediately, helping people to safety. I recently read a story about some Marines who showed up at a daycare facility near the Pentagon, un-asked. In teams they picked up cribs with babies and anything else and brought them out of danger.
The first responders? Oh, how well we all know who they were. So many of them lost their lives in the blink of an eye while trying to save the lives of people caught up in the surreal drama.
And every day folks, traveling in the air, going about their daily business suddenly confronted with berserk people and making a decision. A decision that still ended their lives, but saved countless others by forcing a crash in a Pennsylvania field.
Heroes all. Bravo and standing ovations forever!
I think, though, that we have many more patriots. I certainly was no hero that day, but it changed me forever, and I want to remember why I proudly call myself a patriot.
Like most people, I was going about a usual day. I guess it was about 9:00am that I was receiving a shipment of plants. The driver came in with a load and mentioned that a plane had just crashed into the world trade center building. After realizing that it could not have been the world trade center in St. Paul, MN, (we would have heard it), he went to listen some more while I unpacked plants.
Then he came back in scant minutes later and told me that another plane had hit the other tower. The chills, fear, and anguish that went through my body as I realized the significance of that second plane still, yes even right now: bring a sense of dread and disbelief.
The rest of it is such a blur. At one point before or after hearing about the Pentagon, we heard and felt two fighter planes go screaming overhead. I went out on my deliveries, barely keeping tears in check. The flowers were almost ignored by recipients, all we could do was shake our heads and mourn.
When the first building collapsed, I felt as if I did, too. All I could think about was the children who at that moment became orphans. I drove the couple miles to my church after my last delivery and sank onto a pew in the darkened sanctuary and wept. I must have sat there for an hour or more, alternately sobbing, praying, and shaking my fist at God. Most of the crying was done out of compassion for those left behind, but some of it was for me, too. I was scared.
That evening our family gathered in front of the television, praying that any minute we would be told of survivors being found. The power went out. We looked at each other, nobody saying really anything but easily reading the dread in each others expressions. We cautiously went outside, scanning the skies for airplanes, noticing neighbors up and down the street doing the same. We were immensely gratified when a brief half hour later the power came back on. Turns out a car hit a power box during an auto accident.
A tiny piece of background. I was educated in the public school system during the 70’s. Every morning, we as a school body stood and faced the American flag, and recited the pledge of allegiance. It didn’t really mean anything to me, it was just something I had to do. I will admit here that I would get a bit of a shiver if I heard a really good vocalist sing the “Star Spangled Banner”.
On that day, Sept. 11, 2001, I became a patriot. No, I did not lay down my life to protect my country or its citizens. What happened is nevertheless profound. I became a willing partner with my fellow citizens to see that future generations understand and appreciate why we stand together. That duty to country, patriotism; is as much about preserving humanity as it is about fighting on a battlefield.
My battlefield is my little flower shop in St. Paul, MN. Conversations with people over the counter as I wrap their flowers and gifts plant tiny seeds of understanding that, with hope and faith, will flourish and grow to supply a hungry nation. A nation hungry for true patriots.
I have shared my memories of that day in hopes that others will post here with their memories, too. This is one of those wounds that will fester if not opened up occasionally to let out the toxins. It is cleansing.
In closing, I just really want to extend my utmost and sincerest condolences to those who lost a loved one or friend on that day. I give my pledge to you all that this patriot stands with you.
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