Much to mourn in the second week of September.
Most Americans are recalling where they were five years ago on September 11, 2001. Television, newspapers and news magazines are printing feature stories about survivors or anyone who had a connection to the tragedy that day. The news media and talk shows are reviewing events since then: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, 911 Commission Report, establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, the controversy over wire-tapping without court approval, transportation and border security.
Most pundits agree that it is not a question of whether there will be another terror attack in the United States but a question of when. And we canÕt forget that a disgruntled American carried out one of the worst attacks in this country in Oklahoma City. In the 1990s, a local man named Dan Shoemaker, employed in one of our Galesburg schools, no less, threatened our Sheriff, States Attorney, police chief and others because he was mad at the American Ōsystem.Ķ
None of the events of that day and since should be forgotten. They should be ruminated and discussed openly with friends and acquaintances, for it gets more apparent by the day that our instincts and ideas are as knowledgeable and important as those in Washington, D.C. As American citizens, we are responsible for our own survival and thatÕs why our local emergency services are the key when any disaster strikes, whether generated by dangerous weather or terrorists. When the chips are down, itÕs preparation on the local level that will make the difference. The local agencies know this and are getting prepared. They are waiting for the rest of us to face reality.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I returned home after attending a SunRise Rotary breakfast meeting. My business was managed in my home, so I decided to relax, read the paper and have another cup of coffee before starting work. I turned on the television and the first tower had already been attacked. Horrified, I watched the second plane, live, plow into the second tower. With tears streaming down my face, I sat there all day, watching the tragedy unfold. My husband was visiting friends in Alexis that morning, so I was alone and the first person I saw was the poor Culligan man, who found me nearly hysterical and was no doubt very glad to get out of the house.
But my sad feelings about 9/11 are mixed with feelings of heartache about my father. About three days after the terrorist attack, my father, in his mid-nineties, fell and broke his hip. He was to have surgery immediately and I really didnÕt think he could live through it. The question was - how to get down to Sarasota, Florida. There were few planes flying, and those that were cost thousands of dollars for a one-way flight.
My daughter and I decided to make a quick auto trip to be there during the surgery. I picked her up about 1:30 p.m., north of Springfield, and we barreled our way across the country. About 11 p.m. that night we found ourselves zipping through downtown Atlanta. Since the Braves werenÕt playing, it seemed like a good route. The scene was unreal. The streets were empty of cars and pedestrians. We looked up at the tall buildings of the city, completely lit and beautiful. How interesting these skyscrapers are all lit up, I said, four days after skyscrapers in another city were targets for terrorists. It was as if Atlanta was thumbing its nose at the terrorists, saying, we arenÕt afraid of you. Life will continue in America.
The next day we arrived about 4:30 and my father had just gone into surgery. We found my little mother, also in her 90s, in the waiting room. My father survived the surgery. Knowing my brother was on his way, (they had planes moving in Chicago by that time), we stayed a day and a half and headed home.
For the last few years of his life, my father was just plain annoyed that he wasnÕt well. He shut out television, newspapers and lost all interest in current events. I tried to tell this intelligent man and lawyer who loved to discuss politics, history and current events, about the events of September 11. He acted like he didnÔt comprehend it, but I think he did. I think it was just too horrific and he didnÕt want to hear or think about it. I donÕt blame him.
Two years later, on September 7, 2003, my father died. No doubt about it, for many reasons, the second week of September is a time for mourning.
Caroline Porter is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.