Everyone over the age of 15 or 16 remembers exactly where they were on 9-11. There are only a few events in life that are seared in memory. My first, for so many of my generation, was the day JFK died. For my boys, it was 9-11. Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of 9-11 and I found myself affected more than I expected. I sat in front of the television much of the day.
My Radio Show this week was about “Allowance,” yet knowing it would air in some markets on the weekend I chose to include some discussion about 9/11. My segment with Pastor Drew Sams turned in a very powerful and emotional one in which we only discussed 9/11.
Nothing prepared me for the feelings that overcame me yesterday. It’s indescribable as I heard and saw new and old images, heard and saw new and old stories, heard and saw new and old testimonials, from that tragic day.
The funny thing was that I was thinking about all the events unfolding and told during the various 10th anniversary television shows through the prism of 12Most.com. 12Most.com is a wonderful, clever, and witty web-site that is a new incarnation of lists. Instead of the “Best Of” it’s the “12 Most Incredible Dads,” for instance. Who do you think wrote that one? So, I started noting all the things that were touching me on the tube.
It took around four hours to read all the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11. Between various events taking place in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania they repeatedly showed a clip of a ten-year-old boy talking about his dad, after reading his name. He simply said that he was in his mom’s belly when his dad died. He thanked his dad for giving him life and wished he were here with him.
That boy instantly reminded me of my 14-year-old son and our trip to Ground Zero this past summer. Nothing quite prepares a human being confronting evil and horror in person. All the photos interspersed in this column came from our visit that day. We saw a group of soldiers visiting the Fire Station next to Ground Zero. Somehow that seemed so fitting and I enjoyed speaking briefly with some of them and thanked them for their service. I walked all around Ground Zero. I met a crossing guard (see the photo below) and my son took the photo. How wonderful to get such a big smile at such a sad place!
Watching both President Bush and President Obama in the various events made me proud that such diversity of opinion can be put aside when it matters most. Both men had good things to say, both men put aside any partisanship, and both men spoke from the heart. It was an American tragedy and all the tributes were polite, non-partisan, patriotic, and reminded this American of how we all felt those first days and weeks after 9/11. There was a unity then that feels sadly gone today.
Much of what we saw was very sad, many images disturbing to see yet again, but America showed itself proud also with the simultaneous NFL moment that took place in every stadium that hosted a football game. The one I saw had a flag unfurled across the football field. The man who sang the national anthem belted it out in a rich, deep, powerful voice. And after, the 100,000 or so fans erupted in cheers. The show aka the game must go on. As it should. This is Americana at its finest.
There were so many stories of heroism. One stood out for me. It wasn’t the biggest, the best, the most amazing, but it felt the most representative. It was the story of Steve Miller, a fireman who had just finished his shift and was driving home to Brooklyn when he heard the news on the radio. A father of five and a just graduated rescue-team fireman, he immediately turned around. Confronted by a road-blocked tunnel back into the city, he parked his truck, hoisted his 60-pound pack of rescue equipment on his back, and ran all the way back to the Twin Towers. He was never seen again. Now, they hold 5K races all over the country in his honor, raising money for the families of the victims and for other causes.
Lauren Manning was in an elevator when the plane hit. Trapped along with others. A fireball erupted and swept down the elevator shaft burning her over 82% of her body. She spent the next two years in excruciating pain but chose to fight on for the sake of her husband, 10-month-old baby, and to not let the bastards win! She was a guest on one of the shows I watched yesterday. I shivered as she described her ordeal and marveled at her courage.
Another guest on one of the shows reminded us that the United States Military has suffered 6,000 or so thousand fatalities and thousands of casualties since the War On Terror began ten years ago. Evidently, there have been several casualties that suffered multiple losses of limbs, including three that were quadruple amputees.
I read that there was a lot of debate over what the memorial site should look like. Given our multi-cultural, politically correct society, it seems a miracle that any agreement was reached. When I saw the two inverted waterfalls, standing in the exact footprint of the two towers, I was struck by just how perfect that seemed.
At the end of the day, I felt exhausted. But, oddly enough, I also felt proud. Proud to be an American. Proud to be doing my part. And, I even felt assured that it would be all right!
Get Bruce’s new book and Limited Edition (of 500) Poster, A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation at Amazon, iTunes, BN.com, or The Store here on our web site.