What happened? Sept. 11th is a day of reflection and remembering. For some reason I don’t need the anniversary of this date to do that... It seems to stay with me. Maybe because I made a promise to “never forget,” maybe because I know that young men and women I have taught have been “over there” to help make sure a day like 9/11 never happens again, and maybe it’s because we are reminded every day that there are men and women who did go and won’t be coming home.
Each of us knows someone or of someone who took up the call to fight so we didn’t have to. This little note comes from something I witnessed Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, the day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I attended a parade in the very community in which I live. I have attended parades here before and, unfortunately, have witnessed the same sad thing at every single one of them. It doesn’t matter what the celebration was for, but aren’t we lucky and blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom to celebrate and express our feelings in such a manner? I will admit that I am confused, and not sure if I should believe that what I saw is something that is going on only in my community or if this is something that is taking hold of other communities as well. The only thing that I could think as I witnessed this event was, “What happened?”
What happened to people standing up and gentlemen removing their hats as the American flag is carried down the parade route by men and women who you know are proud and honored to be serving that duty? What happened to showing respect, not for a piece of cloth on a pole, but what that “cloth” represents? The flag represents an ideal born more than 235 years ago by people who were willing to sacrifice everything to experience freedom and democracy and ensure that future generations would be able to do the same. The flag represents every man, woman and child that has ever wanted to live free – American or not. Many of our fallen brothers and sisters gave everything so non-Americans could do the same.
The flag represents every name on every dog tag that was given to family members whose loved one made the ultimate sacrifice for such a noble cause. The flag represents, not a country going through a hard time, disillusioned by people and events... but a country that always finds a way to bounce back and be stronger than it was before.
What happened? Haven’t we learned anything in 10 years? There’s another parade coming up in my community in the not so distant future... and I’m hoping that when I attend and the flag is marched down the parade route, everyone stands and shows the respect that is so deserved.
Nancy K. O’Neil