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Sunday, September 11, 2011

one nation, under God

Psalm 46 [read by President Obama at the 9/11 Memorial]
 1 God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.
 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”
 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
I could see it on her face; her tear-stained cheeks, red nose, and new flood of tears welling up in her eyes told me that something was wrong. As I looked around the room I noticed that my peers all shared a similar look of shock and despair on their faces. Thinking back over the last 5 minutes-from the bell signaling the end of 2nd hour to the one signaling the beginning of the 3rd hour-I hadn’t noticed anything out of place on the faces of my fellow 1,200 school-mates. But then again, I was probably distracted by searching the crowds for some cute boy’s face or making sure that my plaid, Catholic school-girl like skirt wasn’t riding up in the back. [I blame the constant battle between a book-bag and uniform skirts on the entire male species. I am sure it was a male who designed the book-bag-one shouldered bags are wa-hay cuter-just as I am sure it was their idea that we girls wear skirts as part of a uniform.]

A compilation of most of the innocent victims who's lives were taken that day [Richard Drew/AP]

Eventually both of the towers fell [Richard Drew/AP]
We all slid into our seats before the final tones of the bell rang and I still did not know what was going on. I interacted with Mrs. Menard on several levels outside of the classroom, student-teacher relationship and had seen her emotions get the better of her on more than one occasion. I had seen our band perform a ballad so beautifully that it had moved her to tears before. And that was just our warm-up/practice!  But this was different; everyone seemed to know something that I did not and although I could dismiss the tears in Mrs. Menard’s eyes I could not do so for my peers.

Are you okay?’ I asked her, ‘I can tell something is wrong.’  I don’t remember the look on her face at that moment, but I can imagine that it held evidence of one of two feelings: either shock that I could be so cold-hearted or distraught at having to say the awful words out loud. The possibility that I was unaware of the morning’s events never crossed her mind. After all, it was 9:43 on the morning of a September 11, 2001, and 3 of 4 planes had already been hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Centers and Pennsylvania.

3 planes have just crashed in New York and Pennsylvania; haven’t you been listening?’ she asked me incredulously. Well, yes, I had been listening. I had been listening to the notes and sounds coming from a 70+ member band for the last hour. 3rd period was when 1st band held class and due to exceptionally high decibels not present in most other classrooms, we were unable to hear the announcements that had been being made throughout the past hour. The whole nation had come to a screeching halt while our trophy-lined band room continued on like any other normal Tuesday morning.

Some people leaped from the tops of the towers in desperation to escape the fires and explosions [Richard Drew/AP]

The rest of the day went by in a blur. All of our teachers handled the day differently; some let us watch the news on TV, some let us call our parents on our phones, while some continued on with their curriculum. I do remember 3 specifics of that day, however: 1) my friend, Jason, declared that he was going to join the Army as we stood in line for lunch and I feared that he might do so that afternoon, 2) my family and Jason joined our church family in our sanctuary later that night to watch President Bush’s response, and 3) I had no idea what the World Trade Centers even were. I had an image in my mind as to what went on in the buildings, but I knew those conclusions were probably wrong as I only had the words ‘world’, ‘trade’, and ‘centers’ to go by.  I just didn’t think that 2 extremely tall buildings with large, open rooms filled with vendors from all over the world selling and trading their goods was likely to be what was actually housed within what were twin, standing buildings earlier that morning.

The streets of NYC were destroyed and ash-covered for miles around the explosion [Richard Drew/AP]

And now, here we are today, marking the 10 year anniversary of the fateful day that changed American history forever. For some, it is a reminder of the emptiness present in their life since their loved one did not come home that day. For 9/11 survivors, it is a reminder of the challenges that they have had to overcome since their lives literally flashed before their eyes.

25 Most Powerful Photos

Sweet baby, Jacob
I knew today would usher in a surge of emotions. I baby-sat this little guy all afternoon and was able to watch the news coverage of 9/11 Remembrance during most of it; I was thankful for this time as I don't know that I would have sat and watched for that long otherwise.  Boy, was I anything but prepared. I watched interviews, testimonies, and footage of thousands gathered at the various remembrance sites. I watched the names of the nearly 3,000 victims tick by at the bottom of the screen. I think we could listen and watch for days and still not hear most of the stories of the thousands of heroes that stepped up during that time. I listened to a few stories and every single one of them had me in tears.

 Ground Zero Memorial [Richard Drew/AP]

Take Stephen Siller, for example. On his way out of a Manhatten firehouse where he had just finished his shift, he heard the news that the towers had been attacked. Recognizing his call to duty, he headed straight for the towers with his fire truck. When he got to a tunnel that had been blocked he jumped out of his truck, donned his 60 lbs worth of gear and equipment, and proceeded to run the rest of the way to do his part.

Stephen died that day in efforts to help his fellow Americans. He left behind 5 young kids, a wife, and 5 brothers and sisters who had raised him from the time he was 10 years old.  After piecing together his whereabouts and actions of that day, his brother and family put together a foundation to help other 9/11 families. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower Foundation now holds a 5K run [Tunnel to Tower 5K] each year where 1,000s gather and run the same route that Stephen took that day.

The Tunnel to Tower 5K retraces the steps of Stephen Siller on 9/11/11.  Many of the firemen and women participating will wear their gear, just as Stephen did that day.
In his interview with Fox News, Stephen's brother Frank was asked how his family-especially Stephen’s wife and kids-had dealt with the pain and struggles of moving on from that day. He responded with this: ‘Stephen taught us all that you don’t run away from your problems; you go at them head on give it your all.’ I was an immediate puddle on the floor.

Then there were the people on United Airlines Flight 93 who were able to fight back against the terrorists. In his speech to the family members at the dedication ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, President Bill Clinton compared and contrasted Flight 93 with the Alamo and the Spartan wars. Those battles were different, he said, because they knew what was coming to them. The people aboard Flight 93 just happened to board a plane that day. Yet, they were the first to fight back and the first battle ‘won’ in the War on Terrorism.

My goal was to have already read the book 'Let's Roll' by Lisa Beamer.  Unfortunately, I have yet to make it by the library where I hope they have a copy.  Below is a picture of her husband's famous quote engraved in the Flight 93 memorial.  I am looking forward to reading the book and will definitely let you know how it goes!

Todd Beamer's infamous last words aboard United Airlines Flight 93 is engraved at the 9/11 Memorial in Shanksville, PA

And the list of heroic people goes on and on. A day that will forever be engrained in the memories and hearts of any American alive in 2001 also serves as a reminder that, in the face of disaster and strife, the American people will rise up and serve together. My prayers and thoughts go out to every person who lost someone that day as well as those who where there and miraculously survived.

25 Most Powerful Photos

For more incredible pictures like the one above go to the following link: 9/11 The 25 Most Powerful Photos.  You can also found tons more of incredible photo albums towards the bottom of the page.

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