In Remembrance…

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Hi Friends,

The sun shone brightly on this September 11th morning. As I walked along the prairie, admiring the goldenrod, purple thistle, and bright yellow blossoms, it wasn’t the birdsong or the chirping crickets that interrupted my thoughts. It was the sound of airplanes flying overhead. It’s a very common part of the soundtrack of our lives here since we live near a major, international airport. It triggered an eerie memory, though, on this National Day of Remembrance, of a time when our skies overhead were silent for many days.

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As I neared the park the somber strains of the bagpipe drifted through the air over the crowd of neighbors gathered on this early Sunday morning. We were there to remember and honor the victims and their families of that terrible, terrible day fifteen years ago.  Patriot Day is now a very special time of remembrance every year on September 11th.

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We gathered this morning to commemorate all of the brave first responders who sacrificed their lives in service to others. A local firefighter remembered how a small group of firefighters from our town immediately left for New York. They made the journey specifically to attend the funerals of the New York and Port Authority fire fighters who lost their lives on 9-11. Since the New York area firefighters were in the midst of search and rescue, firefighters from across our nation arrived to support the families and to be there for the funerals.

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A local police officer shared his remembrance of that day right here in our town, over 800 miles from New York City. People were afraid, and the job of our police officers that day and long afterward was to reassure citizens that we were safe. Seeing an extra police presence on the local streets brought a sense of comfort in the weeks following 9-11.

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The names of those brave 343 firefighters and 71 police officers who instantly lost their lives while trying to save others were read aloud. There was a pause at 8:46 and 9:02 a.m. for a moment of silent reflection at the exact times that the planes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. A local honor guard marked the sacrifice made by police officers with a three-shot salute and a local firefighter honored the fallen firefighters by ringing a fire bell, a longstanding tradition of firefighters.

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A veteran shared his memories of being called back to active duty and all of the young men and women who wanted to serve our country following the attacks. A young woman vividly and bravely shared her memories of that day and the impact it made on her life, inspiring her to become a high school counselor. We honored the memories of all those passengers on Flight 93.

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This morning’s ceremony ended with the display of an artifact from the World Trade Center, recently given to our local fire department by the New York and New Jersey Port Authority. This piece of steel is a rail from the subway tracks that ran underground at the World Trade Center. On 9-11, these tracks carried survivors out to safety. Soon this special remembrance will have a permanent place of honor at one of our fire stations.

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As we listened during the 90-minute ceremony, everyone’s thoughts turned to that day, fifteen years ago…

I can remember that sunny Tuesday morning, as if it were yesterday. As I drove into the school parking lot, a news report interrupted the music on the radio at 7:46 Central Time. The news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center was an unbelievable shock. In that moment, we didn’t yet understand what was happening.  I paused to breathe. Just as every morning, I quietly spoke my intention, “Thank you for bringing me here” for the new school day. It was time to rush inside for a before-school meeting. During our meeting, news reached us that a second plane hit the Twin Towers.

The school bell rang and my second grade students arrived filled with concern and questions… so many questions. For they had all seen the news reports on TV before school. They were frightened and wanted to know if they and their families were safe. Even now, just thinking about that day brings tears to my eyes. Fortunately, our class was like a family, having ‘looped’ together from first grade into second grade. We felt the bonds of trust and closeness that were so important at a time like this. I remember spending a great deal of time talking about heroes. We talked a lot about the helpers, the firefighters, policemen and women, paramedics, doctors and nurses,… all of the people who help us.  I listened…and listened… and shared a few facts in age-appropriate ways. These curious, engaged children looked to me for answers every day, but sometimes there are no answers…

Mind you, I still had not seen any news reports or the horrific images that my seven-year-olds had seen. At lunchtime, I watched the news footage of the terrorist attacks for the first time. The new reality, that terrorist attacks had now reached our homeland, cut into my heart. As a traveler, I had been very aware of the attacks that had been happening in Europe over the years. Memories of arriving at the Frankfurt airport just days after an attack, seeing military with weapons on patrol, being careful not to look ‘American’ while traveling, and discovering that there were places I couldn’t go were etched in my heart. I was a frequent traveler who always dreamed of my next European adventure with dear friends. That feeling of being ‘Home Safe Home’ each time my plane landed here was gone in an instant! Everything had suddenly changed.

In the weeks and months following the attacks, we often talked about ways that we could help one another in second grade. “There are no hands too small to help the world” was a phrase we often said in our classroom. We would look at our own hands, then pick up our pencils and crayons to write ‘thank you ‘ letters to our firefighters. Our little hands stayed very busy! We wrote class letters to a deployed Army soldier (and he wrote back). We honored the veterans in our own families, and we raised money to help others. We loved to share ideas about all of the ways that we could help in our families and communities. Celebrating the helpers and being the helpers made us all feel better!

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That is the part of ‘Remembrance’ that I hold dear.  After the unthinkable had happened, Americans everywhere were so kind and supportive to one another. We truly showed that we cared about one another’s feelings and needs. We pulled together to help and make a difference. (Do you remember filling the firefighters’ boots with donations for the families of the NYC firefighters?) We talked together… and we listened to one another.  We were one… we were Americans, at our best!

On this Day of Remembrance, if only we could remember those same feelings of kindness and caring and helping one another. Instead of the constant political squabbles over the upcoming Presidential elections, maybe we could work together, have meaningful conversations, listen to one another, and try to solve the problems that face us all. We can be our best… I know we can.  

In remembrance,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  If you would like to share a memory, we would love to hear from you!

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15 thoughts on “In Remembrance…

  1. Oh dear Dawn my heart just aches remembering that awful day. They say we will always remember what we were doing on that fateful morning. Your community memorial is touching and so heartfelt. How appropriate to have the rail as part of the healing memory of transporting those to safety. Your classroom was a cocoon of refuge for those little children. Thank you. ♥
    Grayden was on business travel during that time and I had accompanied him as I often would. We had flown out of Dulles ( the same airport that a plane flew from into the Pentagon) the day before. His meetings were canceled and since there were no flights we drove the rental car all the way back home. Our community was affected greatly with loss of life. Life as we know it changed forever that day….
    Please God, teach us to love one another….♥

  2. Thank you, Martha Ellen, from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story of that tragic day. Sharing our stories is so very important. I often wonder how my students remember that day in their young lives.

    It must have been very frightening to be away from home on that day. It was comforting, I’m very certain, that you were together and could be there for one another. Our prayers are the same, dearest Martha Ellen. Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom. I am so grateful for our friendship! ♡

  3. This is such a touching, reflective and fitting tribute, Dawn. Thank you for sharing your experience of 9/11 and for sharing this Day of Remembrance. Was this at the September 11 Memorial?
    I’m sure you were a comforting presence to your class, calming their apprehensions, even when you did not yet know all the horrors of that day. Thank you.

    We will all remember September 11 as other remember Pearl Harbor or the day JFK was assassinated – and we should remember.

    I was coming down the stairs. Tom had left the television on when he left, early, for a meeting. As I walked into the room, I saw the 2nd plane hit. For a second, I wondered what in the world he had left on. Then, reality struck. I immediately called Tom, who had not heard. He hurried back home. As we sat, watching it all unfold, Tom suddenly said, “listen”. Silence. We lived on a flight plan to a major airport. The skies were stilled. I will always think of that day as the time the skies were stilled. A pastor from our church was on the plane that went down in Shanksville. We did not know him personally, but, it felt mighty close just the same. There was a memorial service that was so sad but was a step in healing. Our nephew walked that iconic bridge in NYC to get home and still remembers the smell. I worried until I heard from our older daughter, and our younger daughter, who was in college. I can remember driving up to see her after a few days. There were so many white cars on the interstate. I finally realized that they were all people trying to get home who had been stranded when flights were cancelled.

    Gosh, Dawn, you’ve opened up a floodgate I’d forgotten. Bless your heart.

  4. Oh, Penny! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know that it wasn’t easy. I’m so sorry that you had so many personal connections to that fateful day. It must have been so frightening to have your daughters living at a distance. At times like these, we really need our families close by. We are truly all connected by the events of the world. I really believe that it is important to share our stories.

    Yes. I was drawn to the September 11th Memorial this morning after reading about the plans for this ceremony in the newspaper. As I walked, the sudden memory of the quiet skies on September 11th and the days afterward came flooding back. The quiet stillness overhead during those days was deafening. I wasn’t planning to write about the National Day of Remembrance at all. I just wanted to be there to honor the victims, their families, the first responders who gave their lives, and the first responders who continue to suffer the aftereffects. By the time I walked back home after hearing everyone’s stories, my own story just came pouring out… along with so many tears.

    I can still remember my teacher crying on the day when President Kennedy was shot. They sent all the students home early and we were so frightened. The innocent hearts of young children are so tender. I tried so hard to help my own students through this terrible experience in their childhood. Just two years after the September 11th attacks, we visited the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Being there was such a profoundly moving, heartbreaking experience for us.

    Thank you, again, dear Penny, for sharing your memories of that horrific day. We are all connected in so many ways. Prayers for healing and peace, evermore. ♡

  5. Everyone alive on that day probably could pen a short story about what they were doing. I know I could. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t know anyone personally but can remember the overwhelming feeling of loss that descended upon everyone and then how the nation rallied and pulled together. I know we have another rally left if only we had someone to pull us all together. In the meantime, I’ll keep praying for peace. Wonderful post on this very special day, Dawn. 🙂

  6. Heartfelt thanks, Judy, for sharing your memories. The tragedy brought us all together. Caring for one another helped with our healing for a very long time. On the first anniversary, I brought our neighbor, a local firefighter, a beautiful, red mum plant adorned with flags. He was so touched and decided to bring it to the fire station to share with all of the firefighters there. The smallest gestures can mean so much. Thanks for being here today, Judy! ♡

  7. I had just flown home from a consulting trip. In times past, I had taken the Boston to LA flight frequently. It was one of the ones that went into The Towers. I was suffering jet lag, so watched TV from bed only to witness the horror of that morning. I put flags out on the lawn and into my car. Mom, who lived through the Blitz in London, felt so American that day. We have to find that sense of unitedness again especially in face of the divisiveness of this odd election. We are such a special historical experiment. It is too precious to be just another fallen era of history.

  8. Oh, Anne! Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can only imagine the disbelief you felt as you watched the horrors unfolding on TV that morning. It was yet another tragic day for your sweet mom, too. The tragedy seemed to bring out the patriotic spirit in all of us. It is my prayer that this 15th anniversary will remind people that we came together as one in the past… and by listening, compromising, and working together, we can move toward becoming united again. Thank you, dear Anne, for joining in the conversation today! Safe travels, my friend! ♡

  9. Dawn I had no idea you were a teacher. I should have guessed. Thank you for being there that day with all of those second graders, reassuring them and helping them experience a bit of safety. Our oldest son was four at the time and his brother only a year old. I remember thinking “thank goodness they are too young to understand this right now” because I couldn’t imagine what I would tell them. My husband was a frequent traveler in those days, so it was a tremendous relief to have him home. I felt so lost, so helpless and so profoundly sad. We put my younger son in the car and headed out to donate blood, but we were turned away. There was already a five hour wait to donate! We too noticed the eerie silence of the skies.

    We agreed to keep the TV firmly off when the boys were home and awake, and I think that worked well for our family. It was 24/7 for weeks. You just can’t take it all in. I have friends living in New York and I think 9/11 effected them profoundly since they were so close to ground zero.

    You’ve written a lovely, thoughtful post, one that has also encouraged others to share there own thoughts. Arms around you.

  10. Heartfelt thanks, Alys, for your thoughtful words today. It was a true blessing that I had ‘looped’ with my students that year. I was their first grade teacher and then we moved together as a class and I was their second grade teacher. So, we had already become a little ‘family,’ even gathering together for a class picnic during the summer between first and second grade. Since September 11th was very early in the new school year, I was so grateful that I already knew my students so well. It really helped…

    I can feel the powerful emotion in your memories, Alys. You were so wise to keep the TV off during that time. Young children can have difficulty understanding that each time the news video of the attacks is replayed, the terror isn’t actually happening over and over. It was a blessing that your children were so young at the time. I’m so glad that you were together as a family during that terrible time in our nation’s history.

    Thank you for always adding so much to our conversation here, Alys. You are a blessing to all who know you! ♡

  11. Kindred spirits, dear Alys! I feel the very same way about you! I’m so grateful that we have connected through this amazing blogging community. Sending big hugs across the miles! ♡

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