So I had the honor of speaking at a 9/11 memorial on Tuesday. I spent a few days prior scanning all the various memorial services being mentioned on the news, and looked at a few from previous years. Most were about Our Great Nation, and How America Will Prevail. Not that I don’t believe those things, but I’ve become really fed up with rhetoric amongst all the bullshit election coverage and ads, plus I wanted to do something a little less flamboyant and a little more… personal. So I went with what’s below. It seemed to be very well-received from the feedback I got the rest of the day.
For those who think it cuts off a little suddenly, you’re right. I’ve omitted the closing, because it contained a lot of personal detail and I do want to keep this blog somewhat anonymous. Our organization lost two members on September 11th, and my closing was reading the emails I sent to those mens’ wives the night before, letting them know their husbands haven’t been forgotten by us, and we honor them not only every year, but remember them every day, as the small memorial we erected for them is the first thing anyone sees when pulling into our parking lot. And so it goes… see what you think.
Good morning, and thank you all for taking the time to be here.
There have been many moments which can be pointed out as pivotal in our nation’s history, but it frequently seems those dates which are the most enduring in our memories, are those born of violence and which directly threatened the basic tenet of our society which we tend to define as our most significant: our freedom. The declaration of our country as a sovereign nation on July 4, 1776; the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941; and the reason we are gathered here this morning, and the reason this flag embroidered with 2,982 names is flying at half staff above me: the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Where we were on that day, that morning, is an event which will always be in our memories; for most of those who weren’t yet born or were too young to remember, it’s an important and poignant, yet, with all due respect, somewhat abstract event to be recognized. For those of us that lived through it, it’s a memory to be both cherished and feared at the same time. Because of instantaneous communications and modern technology, it was a physically limited attack that nonetheless managed to make every American feel like a direct target. Across the length and breadth of our nation, in both cities and small towns and with ripples around the world, thousands of flights were grounded, buildings evacuated, school children sent home, bridges closed and bases sealed. Offices, malls and restaurants were empty for days, some for weeks. The event dealt a lasting blow to our national psyche, as for years after, on Sep 11, many people chose to not even venture out of their homes or go to places like Times Square or the Statue of Liberty; anything which might be a target.
But when it happened, and as the shock wore off, we as Americans responded as we always do: with patriotism, dedication, and self-sacrifice. In spite of all our internal squabbling, rhetoric in the media and scandals ranging from petty to the extreme, we once again brought forth an attribute which, when it emerges, gains us the admiration and envy of the rest of world: that Americans are at their best when things are at their worst.