Sunday, September 11, 2011

To Protect and Serve - Remembering September 11, 2001


The members of THE RIGHTBLOGFEST have planned to do a piece on September 11, for some weeks.  During the last several days I’ve pondered what to write.  September 11, 2001 has come to be known as the day that changed America forever.  It did - it has.  Even though I’m miles away from New York City, that fateful day altered my life in ways I could never imagine.

In the past few days people have asked each other, “Where were you on 9/11?”  As with John F. Kennedy’s assassination; it is one of those days one does not forget.  I might not remember what I did last week, but I will always know where I was on 9/11.

We sisters grew up in Newark, N.J., just across the river from New York City.  Our Dad worked for Con Ed and commuted to “the city” every day of the week.  To us, in spite of its proximity to our home, it was a very special place.  NYC meant Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall at Christmastime.  It was going to the top of the Empire State building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the U.N. the Museum of Art, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. New York was New Year’s Eve and sitting at home watching Guy Lombardo and his orchestra while waiting for the ball to drop at Times Square.  It meant Sunday trips across the river on the Staten Island Ferry and seeing The Statue of Liberty.  It was glamor, tall buildings, lights, and excitement, - for us as children it was a really magical place. 

In the early 1960s we sisters moved to the Midwest to attend high school and college.  As our new lives began, New York became a place to visit, and when our parents retired, moved south and left New Jersey, the trips became less and less frequent and New York became simply a pleasant memory to be replaced with new dreams, new aspirations and new cities to live in and tour.

On September 11, 2001, all those feelings that had lain dormant for so many years came rushing back to my life.  I was teaching Spanish in a small town high school in rural South Texas, in a class filled with mostly Hispanic students.  I heard some commotion in the hallway and stepped out to see what was happening.   A few teachers who were off that period had heard the news. "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center!" was the anguished reply.  One colleague had a daughter who was a flight attendant on the San Antonio-Newark, NYC schedule.  Another had a son studying music in Manhattan.  Their fear and uncertainty was understandable.  As we waited to hear from their children, the Principal’s voice suddenly came over the loud speaker, “Teachers turn on your television sets, a plane has hit one of the New York twin towers.” 

I wish I could say that my students were frightened  or even appeared deeply concerned, as we watched the second tower fall.  I was really bewildered by their calm behavior, but to these teens, most of whom had never left South Texas, New York City meant little, if anything at all. As far as they were concerned, it could have been halfway around the world and not even in the same country. When  tears rolled down my cheeks the students looked at me perplexed.  I now know that they wondered "what's the connection, why the show of such emotion."

Later, as days passed, and events unfolded we began to learn more about the "explosions."  The death tolls rose, we watched in horror, at school and at home. The devastation that had by now been identified as an act of terrorism affected the entire country.  For me it really did become what someone later termed, “a teaching moment.”  I saw an opportunity to remind my students that we are all Americans and that the attack in New York City was an attack on us all. There would be plenty of time to learn Spanish, but this was a historic moment in their lives.  

Teachers were granted permission to keep our television sets on, and as days passed, My students and I discussed patriotism, and freedom.  We made beaded red, white and blue bracelets that everyone wore.  Soon the demand for them became widespread. Most of all the students wanted to know who “those people” were, and why they hated us so much.

My students learned a great many lessons because of September11.  Above all they learned  to have pride in their country, and they learned about selfless acts of heroism.  As we heard the commentators describe how the first responders rushed inside  the burning buildings to save the lives of those trapped inside, we watched others, covered in unsightly ashes, rush out to safety.  The dedication, fealty and duty of the members of the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department and the Emergency Medical Teams were unequaled. 

Many of those who ran into the World Trade Center disappeared and never returned.  Of those who answered the call of duty, there were 343 New York City Fire Department Firefighters, including one FDNY Fire Chaplain.  There were 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 Port Authority Police Department officers.  Other casualties of the 9/11 attacks included 15 EMTs and 3 Court Officers. 

In all, approximately 2000 first responders were also injured in the attacks.  Many of those who survived have been stricken by cancers and other diseases which are a direct result to toxins and gases to which they were exposed.  There were victims and survivors on September 11, 2001, and there were also heroes.  There were individual acts of heroism on the part of regular citizens, and there  was the collective heroism demonstrated by the public servants and first responders.  When I remember September 11, I am filled with a plethora of emotions, however, the sacrifices made by the men and women who compose the city's first responders stands out vividly in my mind.

Today, as the city prepares to commemorate the ten year anniversary of September 11, we know that Mayor Bloomberg of New York has excluded those brave men and women.  If there is not enough space in the area to fit all who are serving, Bloomberg should have at least included representatives of each service, and they too should be honored for their bravery and heroism.  The fact that many of them are still suffering the effects of being at Ground Zero needs to be recognized and acknowledged.  Not only were their lives changed, for some the changes continue on a daily basis. 

Among many other things that changed us and our way of life forever. was the  way we viewed our first responders.  Americans discovered a new found respect for a force that had always been with us, and we'd often taken for granted.

Since he was born  in 2001, my 10 year old grandson has never known his country at peace. None of  my grandchildren, ages 12, 10, 7 and 3, have known a world without war.   Many of us have become more observant of our surroundings, more cautious.  When I was in college I had Muslim friends.  I wonder now, was their friendship genuine or did they hate us then as they do now?  I’ve developed a distrust of Muslims.

Regardless of how often anyone goes on National television and claims that it is only those who are religious extremists who hate us, I freely admit that I don’t like them, and don’t trust them.  How will I be able to tell who is an extremist and who is not?  No other religion in the world has ever wished for my extinction.  No other religion in the world has ever made me lose peace of mind.  No other religion in the world has attempted to impose another code of law such as Sharia on my country.  I could go on with a list of reasons but if you’re reading this blog, you are more than likely to feel the same as I do. 

I resent the changes to my life that have come about since September 11.  It is not paranoia, it is a transformation that is yet to be named.  We Americans will go forward and we will continue to fight this war on terror.  We will hopefully remain united as a nation, and we will always grieve this sorrowful loss.  Even so, I personally lack confidence that we will ever erase the specter that radical Islamists, and radical Islam cast over us all. 

We will never forget September 11, 2001.  We will always feel the pain and the sordid loss of that horrific day.  It is living a nightmare to all of us who lived through it.  The attack on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and the foiled attack in a field in Shanksville, PA, were senseless savage acts of butchery, and acts of war against an entire nation  which did nothing to deserve it.  On the days when remembrance becomes painful and overwhelming, I am inspired to continue, to never give up, to never forget, and I  draw strength from those first responders, the Heroes of September 11, 2001.   

The catastrophic events of 9-11 have made that date a day of national mourning, but as we honor those who died on that day, so too should we remember that in every city and every town in America there is a corps of first responders willing to go that last mile to protect and serve the rest of us. 

God Bless America. 
Sister One
TWO SISTERS FROM THE RIGHT


We invite you to read the posts by  the other members of THE RIGHTBLOGFEST


Labels:

24 Comments:

At September 11, 2011 at 7:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

God Bless America.

Thank you for this post which shares thoughts and emotions echoed by millions. I am watching (and weeping) all the memorial events this weekend. I am inspired, yet BROKEN-HEARTED AGAIN. It is the wound that will never truly heal until heaven.

In friendship and shared grief,
Lynn

 
At September 11, 2011 at 2:39 PM , Blogger ramcclain said...

What a great piece, and we share so many emotions, remembrances, etc. You have expressed it so well, and as Lynn says, it is a wound that will never truly heal until heaven. Definitely NOT a Day of Service...............Thanks for writing and posting.

 
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