“Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?” – Alan Jackson
It was 18 years ago, but in some respects, it still feels like yesterday. I was sitting in a small office outside of a large plastics manufacturing facility in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. It was my first job out of college, and I was running the daily sales report for a small business unit of what was then GE Plastics. “A plane just crashed in New York City,” I heard someone say. There was commotion around the coffee pot. A few folks walked into the conference room to turn on the TV. “The plane crashed into one of the twin towers, and a second plane just hit the other one!” I heard in the hallway. At that point, the entire staff poured into the conference room. I scanned the room, and a look of horror and disbelief masked everyone’s face.
Some of us were impacted personally, but ALL of us were impacted. It felt as though our entire country was punched in the gut. The wind was knocked out of Old Glory, and it would take quite some time to breathe again. As we continued to watch, amongst the dust and rubble, a glimmer of hope emerged. The bravery of the first responders flickered like the first candle lit at an evening vigil. And from that spark, a glorious fire would emerge.
In the wake of that horrible tragedy, I saw a nation come together. Like a pride of lions protecting its wounded, Americans united, and we had each other’s back. We displayed our flags. We sang the national anthem a little bit louder. Emotional performances were shared by musicians across the country. Patriotism found its way into our email forwards, our work presentations, our schools. We prayed together. We cried together. And as we healed, we found a way to laugh together again.
Slowly, things returned to normal, and while we could never forget, sadly, we did grow apart again. As we remember the fallen today, I’d like to encourage you to walk a mile in another’s shoes and thank a soldier. Shake a veteran’s hand. Show your appreciation for a fire fighter or a member of the police force. Give a hug to someone that lost a loved one that day. Take a few moments of silence in the presence of our flag.
Maybe most importantly, think about the pride, the unity, and the patriotism we displayed in the days, weeks, and months following that horrible event. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.” Let’s honor the fallen today by letting the light of our stars shine through. Stand proud and recognize all of the good we have to offer, and maybe if just for one moment, we can feel that unified patriotism again.
Where were you that day? How did that day change your life? Think about these things, and never forget.
May God bless you and this wonderful country that I love so much.