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In memory of 9/11

In memory of 9/11 In memory of 9/11

It has been 12 years since the unthinkable happened in our country. Terrorists on suicide missions smashed airplanes into buildings that were symbols of our economic and military might in the world. They took with them almost 3,000 lives as well as the security and confidence we felt here in the United States. Most things closed down that day as we watched in disbelief and horror at the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Travel was restricted, communications disrupted and lives shattered.
My immediate response was the desire to run and hide under the kitchen table. It may not be the most glamorous spot on Earth, but it is a place I understand. It is a place where I know the game plan and all the players. It is a place the family gathers for nourishment of body and spirit. And, in this time of violence and fear, I just wanted to hide under the kitchen table until the sirens of a civil society would sound the all clear.
Even as I wanted to escape to the safety of my home, I knew that was exactly what I should not be doing. It was our democracy, our freedom, our way of life that was being assaulted. We needed to stand up, brace ourselves, build a plan and move on. We live in an international and interconnected society; we must figure out how we are all going to survive and thrive.
With the airlines shut down and us still wondering who the enemy might be and what would be their next action, two international groups arrived in Indiana. A group of Japanese citizens were scheduled to leave the peace memorial in San Francisco and scatter east to spread their message of ‘thanks’ to the United States. The group charted for Indianapolis went through amazing heroics and inconveniences to arrive as planned. It was a somber and sad mood even amidst the message of determination they presented with their speeches. Why, I asked the group’s chief organizer, was it so important for Japanese folks to come to Indiana and say thanks? He responded that it was all about a ‘little bowl of noodles’ amidst a world of hate and violence. After World War II, he and his mother were each given a little bowl of noodles every day by the United States relief program. They stayed alive because of it. Now, in our time of need, he wanted to show his nation’s support, appreciation and commitment to our well-being.
The second group, Habitat for Humanity International, met on Sept. 15 in Indianapolis to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Representatives from foreign countries in which Habitat was helping to build homes came to show their gratitude to the American people. Much to my astonishment, President Jimmy Carter came as had been scheduled. He spoke about what committed people can do to overcome life’s biggest obstacles. Brave people, even in that uncertain time, were coming out to join others in pursuit of a common good. No, I couldn’t hide under the kitchen table. Not literally or figuratively.
Today, monuments to the courage, sacrifice and hope of a nation dominate the New York skyline again. But we are no longer the innocent young nation we were. Our problems still follow us and the dark demons still lurk nearby, but our resolve is stronger than ever. We are a country trying to make a representative participatory democracy work effectively in an inclusive society. We struggle with ideas that would benefit some while excluding others. We try to combine a capitalistic economy with a caring community. We sometimes take two steps forward and then a step back while we regroup from a faulty program. But we show up for the challenges and we try, even in the bad times, to make what we touch a little better than it was before we arrived.
I don’t wave a flag often in a show of patriotism, but I do it now. This country is amazing. We try to include all people, and I mean ALL people, in our community as participants in its responsibilities and opportunities. We are united in our end goal, even though we often have disagreements as to the route that should be taken to achieve it. That’s a democracy in action.
This 12th anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, the crashing into the Pentagon and the downing of a passenger plane in Pennsylvania, I challenge you to go out and do something that shows you believe in our way of life and want to see that it grows and prospers in the future. You don’t have to be showy or monumental in your efforts. It can even be something that no one knows about but you. That will be enough to ensure that the future is better than yesterday.