September 11th Retrospective.

by Troy Olson

Never Forget (#NeverForget) was trending on Twitter today and that is appropriate. The tragedy of that day cannot be captured with words, and the number of lives that not only were directly impacted or began to go in another direction as a result number in the millions.

There are a few days that I like to be by myself for much of the day, in quiet reflection. One of those days is Memorial Day, which I use as a day to think about those who gave the “last full measure of devotion” to their country. Veterans Day, I also try to avoid a crowd — instead spending it thinking about those I served with, who are still serving, and maybe sending a text or two to those I have lost track with over the years.

September 11th is somewhat different. It is micro and macro to me all at once. I know my own feelings toward that day and what has happened since and can only imagine how many others have a similar road-now-taken story.

There is no getting beyond the obvious, it was an awful, terrible, tragic day. But it also showed the rest of the world what the very best of the United States of America looks like.

From the First Responders who reacted immediately and went up stair by stair, climbing two of the tallest buildings on Earth, many of them losing their lives to save others. After the buildings came down, many worked day after day looking for missing people, missing co-workers, and exposing themselves to levels of dust and debris I can only imagine.

To the Volunteers who joined them and worked side-by-side looking for missing people, or donated food, nursed the injured, provided community support for families and individuals.

To Trinity Church, which I now know stands incredibly close to the WTC-block. Trinity is one of the only standing colonial structures left in New York City. Alexander Hamilton and many other notable people are buried there. Trinity survived the Great New York Fire of 1776 and against all odds, survived the carnage of September 11, 2001. It would have been enough to just leave it at that. But amazingly, Trinity ended up serving the role of a makeshift community gathering place for people looking for loved ones, needing rest, food, and care from recovery efforts, and providing spiritual support for the community.

To the great national past-time of Baseball, who cancelled scheduled games for reasons other than work-stoppage for the first time since President Roosevelt died in 1945, to resume a few days later, giving grieving Americans something to cheer for, even if just for three hours. For the first time since perhaps 1920, fans across the nation cheered for the New York Yankees as they made an exciting run through the playoffs, winning many come-from-behind post-season games before falling in Game 7 of the World Series. President Bush came to Yankee Stadium to throw the honorary first pitch in Game 3, it was a perfect strike.

To the fact that there was no further loss of life and no major injury in the Massive Cleanup that was completed three months ahead of schedule in May of 2002, an inspiring example of what humanity can accomplish when there is great unity and spirit of purpose.

To the Citizen and Professional Soldiers who volunteered for military service after 9/11, knowing the high likelihood that they would be going into combat or near harms way. These servicemembers account for less than one percent of the U.S. population but there is no doubt in my mind represent the best and bravest of this country.

Finally, to the fact for a few weeks and months after that day Never Forget that everyone stopped caring whether you were Republican or Democrat, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor or anything in between. Never Forget that when this country puts petty differences behind us and works together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish and nothing that cannot be overcome.

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