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Honoring Heros

September 6, 2010

In remembrance of 9/11, we’ll be sharing our stories of heros with you. Whether they be real, from our own writings, or taken from that historic time in our country. The terrorist attack on the pentagon and World Trade Center, as well as the downed plane in Pennsylvania, will be forever carved into the minds of our nation.

Like when Regan was shot, the Berlin Wall came down, or Lady Di was killed, many of us will be able to recall the exact place and setting in which we received the news. I happened to be feeding my ten-month-old daughter in a high chair while watching Regis and Kelly when the first plane hit. My husband worked from home and I raced downstairs to interrupt his conference call to tell him the news.

We found out later that Pete’s roommate for four years in college, Henry Ryan, who belonged to Engine 7 Ladder 1, happened to be filming a French documentary with the Naudet brothers that day. The group was on a call ten blocks away, with the cameras rolling, when the first plane went in to tower number two. The men were the first to arrive on the scene, the first team to make it in, and the only rescue team to make it out without losing a man.

It still gives me chills when I think about it. And when we went to Henry’s wedding a year later it was spine-chilling to see the dance floor fill up with the solemn-faced brave men and toast the heros who didn’t make it out that day. I felt small in their presence, which was not accurate by any stretch of the imagination — I was eight months pregnant with my son by then.

My nephews were teen and pre-teen when 9/11 happened. All three were affected by it in their own way, ways I will only be able to guess at. One grew up determined to help. In eighth grade, Asa organized his school to send care packages overseas when the war first started. Much to our dismay, all three nephews joined the Army when they became men; first Asa, then Justin, and finally Eric.

Please don’t think our dismay is because we don’t support them, we do. We had hopes of the safety of college or a secure job for them all, but they made their own choices. Recently, after a year-long deployment overseas in Iraq, the youngest one, Eric, died in a motorcycle accident. In our minds he is a hero for serving his country, just like all the men who do so now and who have in the past, whether he died in service or not.

The brave men and women, of all races, all religions, and of all sexual preferences, who serve in any capacity, are heros in my mind. Most times what they do is a thankless job. Whether they are firemen, soldiers, policemen, medics, doctors, nurses, teachers or clergy, they all serve our populace and are heros to our country. We only seem to honor them when the chips are down and not 24/7 like we should, but it’s much better now than it was after Vietnam, so I’m not going to complain too much.

Perhaps as a whole, we all need to remember Kennedy’s words and hold them closer to our heart:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but you can do for your country.”

Without the people, the people with attitudes that reach beyond their own needs and their own interests, where would we be as a nation?

On the whole, there might be lots of things wrong with our country right now. But one thing everyone can be proud of is the heros we have within our ranks. They may not fit into the cookie-cutter alpha role many authors portray them as, they may look and act just like you and I — but they are heros nevertheless. And I’m honored to know them, one and all.

Where were you the day the planes hit? Do you have a story of heroism you’d care to share? Do you have a soldier you’d like me to send a care package to? Asa is returning to his home base soon and asked me to not send him my latest two packages. If you have a relative serving overseas who’d like one, please comment and leave your email, I’ll select two soldiers randomly to receive them.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 10:58 am

    Very nice (she says sipping her coffee and drying her cheeks). I’m going to change my post on Wednesday to followup on this subject of 9/11 heroes, it moved me so. There’s lots to say and I don’t often get the opportunity to say it.

    I remember the poignant comment Colin Powell, said (and I’m paraphrasing): “They serve without complaint. All they ever asked for was a little piece of ground large enough to bury them.”

    I remember visiting the NYC Engine Co. office made into a flower shrine after I think every single member of their squad was lost, the man interviewed taking a bottled water from a newsman ready to go back in to the towers and was never heard from again. They do their job without complaint every day. Soldiers, police and firemen, people who keep us safe and protect us from some of the tragedies of life.

    Remembering and honoring them is the least we can do. Thank you, CJ.

    • September 7, 2010 8:30 am

      Thanks, Sharon. I wanted to say more, but was afraid I’d either sound too preachy or wind up crying. Looking forward to your post on Wednesday.

  2. September 6, 2010 11:33 am

    Thank you, C.J., for posting, and Sharon for commenting on such a touching subject. I tend to get very sentimental about heroes and people who serve, be it military, Police, Fire, etc. My dad is a retired Police Officer who served in the Air Force. My brother is ex-marine. One of my best friends in this world is career Army and just came back home to his wife and three kids, safe and sound from his latest tour.
    I think most everybody knows that I work at Sun-Maid Raisin Growers at this point, and that I work very early in the morning. I was the first to arrive at work that September morning and did not know anything about what had happened until the rest of the crew began to trickle in and began to fill me in. After that, there was very little work, just camping out beside a radio as we listened to the terrible news as it unfolded.
    Thanks to all of the heroes, large and small, who protect our country, our cities and our families, while I gripe about the virus that my pc had, the fact that my beloved Chicago Cubs refuse to be successful or that someone took the last cold Pepsi without refilling the refrigerator.

    • September 7, 2010 8:32 am

      Yes, it was a truly earth shattering day for most Americans. I still shudder when I see the images of the jumpers. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the documentary I mentioned in my post, but I hope to soon.

      • September 8, 2010 11:17 pm

        My 16 year old son liked the film United 93, but could never get me to sit with him and watch. I can’t do it. I lived it, and don’t wish to relive it. You know? Some of the comments have been about the people jumping from windows. I remember footage of rescuers where it sound like sacks of cement were crashing to the ground outside the buildings. It wasn’t cement, but people. And I cannot bear it…

  3. September 7, 2010 2:11 pm

    Don’t hate me! But I was still in High School at the time. While the loss of life was great, at the age of 17 I really didn’t understand the full impact of what had happened. All I could think about – and my classmates too – was that our parents were going to be sent to war because of it. My Dad was Airborne Infantry and his outfit usually was one of the first to go overseas during a time like this — and the last ones to leave. During Desert Storm, my Dad was there for a year and a half straight. I found out year laters – he volunteered to stay longer than his required 8 months. He volunteered to stay longer than the year and a half too, but they sent him home. I remember as a kid, he would sit in his recliner and stare a the TV – that wasn’t on – for hours and hours. I was terrified. Now as an adult, I feel sorry my Dad more – HE was terrified like nothing I ever knew or will ever know. Soldier experience things that even us as writers can’t possibly imagine – and our words can’t give justice to.

    I tried once to write a story about a soldier but abandoned the project have 1 paragraph. I tried later to write it about my Dad, but still did not make it past 1 page. Instead, I wrote a poem from a daughter’s perspective to her soldier Dad. (You can read it in my WDC portofilio.) I created a character based off my Dad – but he is now an elf warrior! I feel more comfortable writing about an elf warrior here, because I feel like I won’t be offended any soldiers. Writing about a soldier, from his POV – I just feel I could totally mess it up and get everything wrong.

    When people come up to my Dad and shake his hand to thank him for his service, I get choked up everytime. My Dad shakes their hand and makes a sad smile and simply says “It was my pleasure.” Not “You’re welcome” or “Thank you” in return. “It was my pleasure.”

    CJ, I think it’s great that you are going to send packages overseas to the soldiers. They need it for sure. If you Google search “soldier kissing letter” you’ll find a picture of my Dad kissing a letter from our Mom. Those letters and packages mean everything to those guys. So keep sending them. YOU are doing a great service to this country by doing that.

  4. September 7, 2010 10:23 pm

    This was always and will be embedded in my mind. Seeing people jumping out of the towers and then hearing how they all cheered for our dead in Iran. I was appalled, not to mention, miffed at the same time.

    I was going to work at the Elementary School where I was a Sp. Ed. Teachers Assistant for the Deaf. I heard on the radio that a plane had just struck tower 1 and then a second one had hit the other one. Finding this strange and wanting to know more I rushed into work where a television was set up in the library and that’s when I saw. I was shocked, scared. Parents were calling in wanting to pick up their children out of fear. Living an hour away from Chicago, where we too have tall buildings I was fearing for those who worked Downtown.

    Planes were halted from Midway and O”Hare and an eerie silence filled the sky. I remember helping hang a giant size flag outside our school and no one said a word, we were all in shock. Then watching the tv for hours, the same scenes over and over again, people jumping out of the towers, to finally seeing the towers collapse and everyone scrambling for their lives as debris and ash filled the entire city complete. My stomach ached for days because I was so heart broken for the lives lost. It was senseless.

  5. September 8, 2010 7:18 pm

    CJ, you are so right! As with the death of Elvis, I shall always remember where I was when the towers were struck. I remember, also, taking photographs of NYC from the top of one of them some years before then! I cannot find them, but I know they are there somewhere amongst my collection of papers from a lifetime of memories.

  6. September 11, 2010 1:37 pm

    C.J., what a beautiful post! I teared up even though I must admit that 9/11 didn’t have a direct effect on me. When it happened, I didn’t know anyone in NY, or anyone in the army. I was in high school at the time, sitting class, the princaple announced it over the PA system and then the teacher turned on the T.V. and we all watched. But even watching it happen, it felt so unreal and so far away for me. Of course, I felt horrible for my friends who did lose someone that day.

    I think what effected me more was the after math and the war in Iraq. I remember junior and senior year, the army recruit guys set up a both right outside the cafeteria, trying to recruit as many of us as possible. Yeah, they’d approach me everyday even though everyday I told them I wasn’t interested. I also remember getting so upset when some of my guy buddies signed up. Heck, I was upset that the school even allowed those recruit guys in the building. The thing was, I felt that my 17/18 year-old classmates were way too young to sign away their lives like that.

    And the truth was, I did lose most of them to the war.

    Now that I’m older, I fully support the troops and anyone’s decision to join the army. That doesn’t mean I like it when they do. I still think 18 is too young to make that kind of choice, but no matter what, I will always support them and their families back home as best I can, and I always hope for their safety and return home.

  7. George Allwynn permalink*
    September 14, 2010 1:27 am

    I remember — like it was yesterday — where I was when I first found out about the world trade center. I was standing nude, in front of the television, munching on a donught and wondering what I was gonna wear for the day while watching a morning show.

    I saw the plane hit the towers – BUT my mind refused to believe what it saw.

    Just like years ago, when I sat watching the space shuttle go up with the first civilian teacher on board – I saw first hand the explosion and the sputtering silence from Dan Rather. I “KNEW” what happened, though my head and my heart refused to believe it then…

    …just like it refused to believe it again, when I saw the second plane crash in.

    Not here.

    Not in America.

    Oh. My. God.

    This isn’t happening.

    This CAN’T be happening.

    I am seeing things.

    My over-active imagination has kicked in. A sugar high from the sticky doughnut, now dropped from my fingers.

    I’m still sleeping and I can’t wake up.

    I’ll never forget the cold fog of shock that surrounded me that bright, warm, September morning.

    I have never felt safe since.

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