Posts Tagged ‘9/11/2001’

This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the day that forever changed the fabric of our nation.  The 9/11 attacks which killed 2,977 people touched the lives of every American.  While I personally did not know anyone who was a victim of the attacks, I spent the next 13 years experiencing the further effects of that day.  Prior to 9/11, it had been many years since I had seen the towers, even though I grew up seeing them on a very regular basis, from the New Jersey side, with the Statue of Liberty in clear profile with them.  The only time I have seen the area since has been from an airplane taking off or landing at Newark International Airport while heading out TDY somewhere for the Army.

My sister-in-law, whom I did not know at that period in time, lovingly changes her Facebook profile photo each year to that of her dear friend from school, Tonyell McDay, who lost her young life during those senseless attacks.  While I do not know anyone personally who died, everyone I know from that day forward either lost someone on 9/11 or during combat action in the years following.  9/11 is not a day that requires anyone to go more than two or three degrees of separation in order to connect any individual to someone directly affected.

In the days, weeks, months, and, early years after that day, there was a loud call from the citizens of this great country to come together in support of the survivors, the friends and families, as well as the recovery efforts in the time that followed.  Patriotism became a unifying banner across the nation as we identified the perpetrators of this horrific attack and began to take action to avenge the fallen.  As the days unfolded, we as a country experienced Patriotism in the truest sense of the word; it encompassed empathy and compassion for our Nation and those directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, and, in the sense of pride in our Armed Forces as we moved off to war to avenge this senseless attack.

In subsequent years that all-too-real, yet indefinable feeling has waned.  Not for the victims of the attacks or remembrance of the attacks themselves, but for the idea that is this great country as a whole.  For a very short period of time of the last decade and a half, the nation stood as what I can only imagine the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the concept of what this nation should be.

Instead of building and improving upon that brief moment, we have let it slip us by, and we have squandered an opportunity born of tragedy.  I have been fortunate enough to witness the rise of some truly great leaders, both in the military and civilian world.  I speak of people capable of transformation, advancement and vision, yet, it does not seem as if it is possible for them to rise to the point, either from circumstance or personal belief, that they can move to the position where they can truly influence this nation on a different path; a path that will take us away from being a country that can only seem to come together as a result of tragedy rather than as a way of life.

As we draw closer to the 15th anniversary of this infamous day, we are being sucked further into the circus that is our run-up the the Presidential election, and I have to say that it is a bitter disappointment that we, as a nation, can only present to the world a shallow pool of candidates as a representation of a nation which at one time stood together in solidarity in the aftermath of tragedy.  Today we stand fractured with the narrative in control of a two-party system and a media which refuses to recognize that there are viable candidates beyond this crop of weeds that presents itself as a garden.

Patriotism is a feeling, an ideal, an intangible that means something different to everyone but has a common thread that runs through it which evokes a passion and emotion particular to each individual.  Unfortunately, in its inability to be defined, patriotism is  susceptible to the vitriolic narratives of party candidates, presented in a never-ending stream of sound bites to a gullible public by news outlets on a 24 hour loop.  We as Americans, are responsible for this because we are willing to accept what has been placed before us as our only options, latching on to the buzzwords which speak to the issues we see as personal to us, rather than demanding the service required by their offices they hope to achieve instead of leadership and service.

This Sunday we should reflect and remember, and pray if that is what you need.  As we do so, do not do it just for those we lost on that day.  Also do it for what we have lost since then, that brief period when we as individuals came together as one, regardless of the differences we possessed or the beliefs we harbored.  Open your heart and soul, clear your mind and really try to get in touch with that day and the emotions it evoked.  When you wake up Monday morning and get ready to start your week, as you read your paper, watch the news or listen to the radio, think about your reflection from the day before and ask yourself if this is the best we can do, are these people who are pushing our buttons to try and draw us to their side, the best we can do or is it okay to settle because they are all their is?  If you are even remotely capable of capturing a small part of what you felt on September 11th, 2001, then you will probably say that we are headed for disappointment instead of greatness, stagnation rather than excellence.

Remember our fallen and those who still suffer from that day and all the days since.  They deserve better from us, they deserve the us that rose from the ashes in the aftermath, not the us we have allowed ourselves to become.

BTAR

Advertisements

This is my last Patriots Day in uniform.  13 years ago I was a 31 year old Buck Sergeant preparing to go to his first foreign country to help train them in peace keeping operations when the fabric of the world I had known was ripped apart.  As we were packing our kit to depart in two days terrorists took it upon themselves to bring us to war.  Ten days later we eventually left on our mission while my brothers and sisters in arms were packing for the unknown.  I did not deploy to either invasion, but I did eventually make it to both Iraq and Afghanistan for close to five years total time deployed.

I have been blessed over the years to know some very special people.  Some of them have given the last full measure, some are continuing to serve and all too many of them are stuck in a ground in between.  They gave what they had and have been unable to adjust and are lost, looking for a way to come back or to just find some measure of peace for themselves.  9/11 remembrances often consist of memorial and dedications to the 2993 souls who lost their lives that day and that is rightful thing to do.  2993 innocent and unsuspecting people paid the ultimate price for simply being a citizen of the United States or having the misfortune of being at the location when the attacks happened.

9/11 for me is not simply about those people and their families.  Casualties from that day have continued to pile up in lives lost and scars visible and hidden.  Environmental effects from the Towers continue to plague emergency responders and volunteers all these years later.  Iraq saw 4486 of my comrades in arms give their lives in service by the time we pulled out in 2011, as well as countless thousands who still suffer physical and emotional traumas as a result of their service there.  Afghanistan has seen an additional 2344 killed in action to date and thousands more with physical and emotional trauma to date, and we have been there longer with still more to go.  Those attacks that day have continued and will continue to take and radically affect the lives of Americans in and out of uniform.  In this regard, Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda have exceed well beyond their expectations.

We as Americans have drawn a distinction between the casualties of that fateful day and our subsequent losses in the years since.  I think this is a mistake on our part.  The events that day and those in the years to follow and the years to come are indelibly tied together and each loss we continue to suffer is directly attributable to 9/11 2001.  Opinions on how much or little justification we had for invading Iraq on top of our assembled coalition hostilities in Afghanistan mean very little when the truths are not truths for the sake of being truthful but political machinations intended to sway a quorum.

Thirteen years of war has changed us as a country.  Thirteen years of remembrance reminds of of what our country is supposed to be.  We now have one tower where two used to stand and we have a country with multiple divisions where we once came together for the common good, saw beyond the horror of the scenes before us to look into our own hearts and extend our hands to those who desperately needed.

This last year is bittersweet.  Almost half my life has been in uniform, it has been my identity and provided me the optic that I have been able to view the events of these last years through.  Sometimes that vision has been with sparkling clarity and magnified view and all too many other times I have had to dry the moisture off it to see beyond my own sorrow.  I do not look upon Patriots Day as a holiday but one of remembrance and reverence.  I give one final salute and take my moments of reflection for those who have given their lives, those who have moved on as best they can and those who will never be able to.

Rest in Peace whose souls have flown

9/11/2001

Never Forget