September 11th

Tomorrow it has been three years since we were backing out of the driveway to go see about getting our car worked on one more time. We were all together, four of us, and the radio was on. I thought it was odd that a voice that sounded like President Bush’s was speaking. Why would the president be speaking now?

My husband stopped the car as we pulled through the gates, gates which we never close, and I remember the iron bars and the rose bushes as we realized why the president was speaking.

Then we backed up some more and went to the mechanics. The news was on, of course. All channels were news. Planes hitting. Fire. Collapsing buildings. Dust and debris.

I sat in a mechanics’ waiting room in suburban Houston and wondered why it was happening. It wasn’t me or my family. I don’t know anyone in New York anymore. I’ve been in the WTC; I remember it vaguely- a visit to a church I later studied about in grad school.

It didn’t seem real. It seemed like it was a docudrama, maybe something like War of the Worlds that got out of hand. I knew it was real, but I wasn’t real. Or something.

I didn’t run and hide. I even made a major purchase that day, which was probably one of my braver choices in life, although I don’t think it was bravery, just sheer disbelief. I knew it was true but I couldn’t believe we would let it destroy us.

My son’s favorite commercial is the one which says, “The terrorists thought they could change America. They did.” And it shows rows of houses, first with empty front porches and lawns. Then with Old Glory flying from each.

I don’t know what difference we have made in our country since 9/11, except that we defined heroes in the old way once again. It’s not a word bandied about as much, used to describe musicians or ball players. Instead it is a word with a heritage, a history for each American. It is a word that has meaning again. I wish it had never had to have meaning again. I mourned the demise of the word before 9/11, but I would trade its death for the deaths of all those who died on 9/11 gratefully. But I know, as a reader, that history needs heroes and that, if they fail to exist, then the history of that place fails. I love my country. I would not want to lose it. And 9/11 reminded us that we, the people of the United States of America, while not forming a perfect union, do care and will act on our compassion in immediate ways, despite the cost to ourselves.

I am so grateful for the heroes of 9/11, the passengers who died in Pennsylvania, the firefighters and rescue workers who died in NYC, the people who wouldn’t leave their friends or came back for others. I am not only grateful for who they were and what they did, I am grateful for what they have given to us, those who live in the USA today. We know there are heroes. We know their faces and their names. And we know that they are not stories, but real, living, vibrant, loving people who gave their lives to save others.

Thank you.