by Alan Ferdman
Sometimes important dates slip by, but next Monday should not be one of them. I hope we will all come to think about what day it is, what happened and why it is important to keep the memory of 9/11 alive.
Another year has passed since September 11, 2001, when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four jetliners for use as weapons of destruction. This evil team crashed two of the aircraft into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and the last, Flight 93, crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside, when passengers yelled, “Let’s Roll” and bravely attempted to take back the plane. In less than two hours, the two World Trade Center buildings collapsed and the Pentagon Outer Ring had been severely damaged. Approximately 3,000 people died, and over 6,000 innocent people were injured in the worst foreign attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.
I remember exactly where I was when it happened. It was early morning. I was getting ready for work and, as normal, had my bedroom television tuned to the news. I was surprised to learn a first plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings. At the time, the newscasters did not know if the crash was caused by a horrific accident or something else. But then, as we watched the second plane impact the second building, the motive became clear. This was a terrorist incident. It was an attack on our country and our way of life. The event ended my rush to get to work, as I sat on the edge of my bed, watching the drama unfold in disbelief. I remember being angry, disheartened, and upset, all at the same time, knowing there was nothing I could do to change what was occurring before my eyes.
But then, I started thinking about the need I was feeling to show solidarity with my friends, neighbors and the rest of the country. Up to that time, I was one of the citizens who put out my American flag on holidays. I retrieved my flag and immediately set it in its holder on the front of my house. Right then, I made a pledge. Flying an American flag only on holidays was going to change. I am proud to be an American every day and, as such, an American flag would fly in the front of my house every day.
Well, I finally did get ready for work and headed to JPL in Pasadena, only to find the facility was on lockdown and closed for the day. Making the drive back and forth gave me time to think. I wanted to do something more than just flying a flag.
I decided the American flag, put up in the front of my house, would fly for an entire year. Each morning I go out to my front atrium for some “wake up” coffee and look at my flag. As my flag becomes weathered and torn by the wind, it serves to remind me of all the brave men and women around the world who devote their time, energy, and sometimes their lives protecting our freedom. I have since put up a permanent flag pole and I replace my flag each year on the morning of September 11. I do not retire my flags, because like those individuals who have served our country, I believe my flags also deserve a place of honor and remembrance. Each year, when taken down, my flag is marked for the year it flew, carefully folded using the appropriate triangle method and placed in a special container, hung on the wall in my home office in clear view. On
the 10th anniversary of 911, the Santa Clarita Elks Lodge hosted a remembrance of that fateful day. As a part of the event, I provided a display of my 10 flags, allowing them to fly again, representing an unbroken daily reminder of those who perished, those who were injured and those who came running toward danger to help others in need. I intend to bring my flags out again, to fly and be seen, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
You might wonder why I am so passionate about remembering and highlighting such a terrible event. It comes from realizing that time goes by very quickly. In an instant, 16 years has gone by. When I was growing up, I remember all the times I was made aware of December 7, 1941. Even though it was a year before I was born, our “Greatest Generation” made sure the attack on Pearl Harbor, “a day that will live in infamy,” would remain vividly clear in our minds, as an example of why America needs to stay strong and ready to defend our freedom. Today, I realize my oldest grandchild was very young and my four other grandchildren were not even born on September 11, 2001. The message for our country to stay strong and ready to defend our freedom is no less true today than it was when I was growing up. Yet, today, I notice a trend of the news media marginalizing our history, as well as, our country’s accomplishments. In recent years, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 don’t even seem to get front page coverage in many of our newspapers. I think that is just wrong.
So, even though on September 11, 2001 there was nothing I could do to change what was happening, I realize today is different. While I may be a member of the “Silent Generation,” I will not be silent about remembering September 11, 2001, Pearl Harbor, Independence Day, or other important American historical dates and stories. I refuse to accept Facebook representations of our history, particularly those written by individuals who only take one word and use it to forward their own agendas. I will continue to study our history in order to factually understand our past leaders, celebrate our successes and learn from our missteps.
We live in the greatest country the world has ever known and I have no desire to move to the one in second place, whichever one that might be. We are all Americans, no matter our race, color, creed, religion or political party, and we always band together in time of need.
So, make me proud on Monday. Take a moment to pray for and remember all those who died, were injured or were impacted in any way by the events of September 11, 2001. But, most of all, be strong and never forget.