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As I write on Sunday evening, Sept. 11, I have spent several hours watching programs devoted to remembering our national tragedy of 10 years ago. I thought I would not forget the events of that day, but I had forgotten so much. Sept. 11, 2001 has now become a part of our country’s history, one we can add to, “I know just where I was on the day I heard President Kennedy had been shot.”
I had just gotten to work at the library. Rita Stangle was already there with the television on as the first tower and maybe the second had already been hit. I didn’t have television or radio on at home before I left so I was just hearing about it. As other staff arrived, we could hardly leave the television to get the doors open and get ready for folks to come in. The television stayed on all day and in fact, we had very few customers.
I would like to reflect upon some of my impressions as I watched the special programming this weekend. The fields around the Shanksville, Penn., monument appeared to be covered with sunflowers. I thought the backdrop for the speakers looked like an Impressionist painting. The remarks made by President George Bush were very moving and so very appropriate. President Bill Clinton, ever in the tradition of the Southern storyteller, related the tale of the Spartans at Thermopylae and compared them to the heroics of the Flight 93 passengers. But it was Vice President Joe Biden who stirred me most with his passion as he praised the men and women of Flight 93 who most likely saved the White House or Capitol from destruction. The first warriors of the 9.11 generation he called them. Sarah McLachlan’s voice as she sang “I Will Remember You” brought more tears to my eyes.
The waterfalls and pools at the World Trade Center site, with the names of all who were lost engraved in bronze around the edges were beautifully thought out, presenting a place where we can all visit to remember. And how brave and impressive were the young people who stood, proudly and sometimes tearfully, to read the names of those who were lost, paying personal tribute to a parent, uncle, aunt or grandparent. I was particularly struck by the hundreds of surnames that were not what we usually think of as “American.” But that’s the greatness and the wonder of our country.
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus delivered the most beautiful version of the Star Spangled Banner I have ever heard.
I learned today that no remains have been found for 40 percent of those who died at the World Trade Center. No closure. No cemetery to visit. And I learned that during the nine hours following the collapse of the towers, the largest boat lift in history was carried out as they picked up thousands stranded at the waterfront near there. I am not sure, but it appeared to be the Battery Park area, where just this past summer I boarded a ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty.
And so, we have passed another milestone commemorating the day the United States was attacked by terrorists. We once again question why those individuals so despised our country, what they wished to accomplish by their suicidal mission? Whatever it was, whatever they hoped to destroy, they were unsuccessful. We have inconveniences in our lives because of their deeds and we have voids left by those who died on that day and on subsequent days as our troops have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the spirit within our nation is strong and this weekend should have brought that home to all of us.
Jarrett Boyd is the retired director of Carroll County Public Library and resides in Carrollton.