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9.11.2013

Long May She Wave

Every year on this date, people ask the question
"Where were you on 9/11?"
Like many other Americans, I DO remember.
And I'd to share my story for a very special reason: For my son.

This is a very different kind of post for HOMEWARDfound, 
but HOME is all about what matters most to us...
and this matters to me.

In 2001, my son was a junior in high school.We lived in a small town in rural Western Washington, the kind of place where the high school kids hold a Homecoming Parade on the main street every fall, with football players (including my son) riding on fire engines and cheerleaders riding in convertibles.The marching band plays, the flags spin,the entire school empties and walks down the streets displaying their Panther Pride for the whole assembled town.The Snohomish Serpentine is tradition and history and pride.

He may have been the one who sang the fight song the loudest after every football game, but I never knew how deep my son's pride ran...

On the morning of September 11, 2001, my kids left for high school and I was cleaning house. My husband called me from his workplace, to tell me what had happened in New York. I didn't believe him. I thought he had misunderstood.The World Trade Center could not be GONE. Because we had just moved into a new house the week before, we didn't have cable yet. No TV. No News. I turned on the radio and listened to the accounts. I had vivid pictures in my mind from what I heard.

A few hours later, I had to leave to go to work before my kids came home from high school (and I was not very happy about that).

I had to drive fifteen miles to the winery, where I was one of the staff for a corporate event. Frankly, every one of us who had to work that night were surprised that it hadn't been canceled. It was a dinner for over 100 HR Managers for a large locally-based computer company. (You know, the one I can't name....) They were at the nearby headquarters/campus for a conference, and had come from several other countries as well as the US.We were told they had no where else to go for dinner, so the event was not canceled.The staff was quiet, hushed, wanting only to be home with our families to absorb the news and comfort one another. Many of my friends and co-workers had seen news reports and images of the devastating events of the day.

One hour into the dinner event, those 100 HR managers
STARTED A FOOD FIGHT.
They tossed bread and flicked vegetables across tables, and laughed their heads off like children in a lunchroom. Not one of those people assembled stood up to say 'ENOUGH!'. NOT ONE.

The supervisor of our staff quietly gathered us, and instructed us to begin removing all wine and utensils from the tables. And we did.The 'guests' got mad when we took the wine away. 

Then our supervisor stood in front of them and calmly announced that the event was over. Their buses were out front and they needed to go now. If I remember correctly, she used the words 'evacuate the facility'.The crowd dispersed loudly but quickly, and left.The dozen staff members and four kitchen staff stood together, and cried. We hugged. And we said goodbye to head home to our families. We all knew that we'd back our supervisor if anything was ever said about the way the event ended. We were just glad it HAD.

I drove the fifteen miles home in complete amazement and anger that those 100 people had behaved so badly, so callously, in the face of what had happened in the world that day. As I drove around the corner and onto our street in our little town, after midnight, I looked at our house and saw the most amazing sight...

My son, seventeen years old, had rummaged through my (many) bins in the attic, and found all of my vintage American flags. He hung one in EVERY window in our house,and turned the lights on in every room. And he had put the largest one on the whip antenna of his truck in the driveway.

The place glowed like a beacon of Patriotism, Hope, Pride, and Reverence for all those who had lost their lives that day. For everyone who had lost hope that day. For the innocence we all lost that day. I had to stop my car in the street because my eyes were so filled with tears.


I parked and ran inside, to find my family huddled around the television. My husband had hooked up the cable and they were watching live news coverage and taped film of the collapse of the towers. It was the first time I had seen it, and I fell to my knees on the floor. The 'vivid images' my mind had conjured earlier that day hadn't even come close to the devastation I was watching. My son put his hand on my shoulder, and we cried.

I was even MORE angry at those HR Managers at that point. I will never understand their reaction that day. A seventeen year old high school boy grasped the meaning, the solemnity, the horror of it all. And could not help but show his emotions in a way that honored the victims.
A man was born that day.
He is a good man, a proud man, and a man that his parents are very proud of.

My favorite vintage flag flies outside my house each September 11th, in honor of the victims and the heroes of 9/11. And I fly it for my son, who is a hero in my eyes and my heart. I pray the pain of horrific loss never revisits him again.

I pray the same for our country...Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.
 
Alan Jackson said it all very well:

4 comments:

  1. I just found your blog today because of a picture pinned on Pinterest.

    I read todays' blog and cried when I read what your son did. I think that's wonderful. I also can't believe the experience you went through at work that night. Totally unexplainable and bad.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and I plan to visit your site a lot now that I found it.

    Best memories today, Steph

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  2. You raised a good one! Shame on those stupid, selfish people. I wish you still lived here though :(

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  3. Thank you, Steph and Holly, for sharing your thoughts with me. And yes, I try to replace the worst memories with the good ones - today, and every day.

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  4. Today is the fifteenth anniversary of that awful day. I shared this post again on facebook, and even now as I read it, my eyes fill with tears as I remember the shock and pain and confusion that fell over our country. That I felt myself, and saw in the eyes of my family and my friends at work that night. My heart aches to remember it all, and it aches to see our country so divided and angry now. We vowed to 'Never Forget' - but we HAVE forgotten. We've forgotten how strong we can be when we come together to serve one another and our country with compassion, pride, and resolve. I pray that it does not take another disaster of this horrific magnitude to remind us who we ARE when we stand together: Americans.

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