Thursday, September 10, 2009

One "BANG" too many

A third grader sat in the school gym transfixed by what he was seeing on television. He was young but somehow he sensed, he knew, that he was watching the world change. There was a "BANG" in reality as well as a "BANG" in history and a tower tumbled. Everything was hazy. Nobody was thinking clearly. Certainly nobody had a handle on how the events of this day would effect the future. For days nobody could tear their eyes from the tube. Commentators commented. Analysts analyzed. Wise men and women spoke words of wisdom. And yet a real "Humpty Dumpty" had fallen and we were all pretty certain that he could never be put back together again.

The following years proved those thoughts to be true. At the moment of the BANG it seemed as though every American was united. We linked arms and faced the future as one. But all to quickly that fell apart. Unity gave way to ugly. Bravery turned to bickering. It continues to this day.

I remember that third grader all to well because he ... was me. My "BANG" was a bullet. It tore from the sixth floor of a school book depository building in Dallas Texas, and penetrated my "tower," the brain of the President of the United States, and left him dead in the back seat of a bullet proof car that, ironically, had its top down leaving him open to the wind ... and to the wicked. I watched my teachers cry. I watched my parents sit in shock, mourning the murder of a man whom they had never met and yet trusted. He had recently, with steely eyed resolve, faced down the hated Soviet Union in what has become known as "The Cuban Missile Crises." We had walked to the edge of the annihilation of the human race and this man had led us back. He got us off the brink. And then he was murdered and then his brother was murdered and we learned never to trust again. Oh, and don't forget to hate. Hate those who don't think like you do because they are probably hating you and planning your demise.

There is a fading freshness in our country these days. In a few hours we will experience the anniversary of another "BANG." Other third graders sat in class rooms staring at televisions and thinking the same things that I thought. And by now the memory fades. Somebody emailed me a massive amount of 9/11 pictures today, shots of the Twin Towers as they collided with their fate. I admit that I was shocked all over again. I have not spent the past eight years staring at the helpless bodies of men and women leaping to their death from 100 stories in the air to avoid the torch of jet fuel and office supplies. Since that horrible day I have walked the side walks around that site. My feet have trod land that was, not too long ago, coated with dust and ash and metal. And body parts. Just like the back seat of a limousine on November 22, 1963.

For me it has been 45 years and 8 years, depending on the "BANG." I remember them both as though they were yesterday. And I mourn what happened to those people. And I mourn what has became the unfortunate and possibly inevitable results to our country. Many, many people will hurt tomorrow. Oddly, I want to be one of them. Because if I hurt it means that I remember. And I don't want to forget. I cannot afford to forget. On a day when we are torn apart by debates over health care, two wars where close friends of mine came oh so close to death, a mega-recession, and countless other things that divide us, I want to remember why it matters.

Why does it matter? It matters because, no matter what you might have been indoctrinated to believe, the United States has for many, many years been the world leader in .... goodness. Yes, goodness. We don't generally blow-up other peoples stuff unless they have already blown-up our stuff ... or seriously threatened to. Complain all you want about a "first strike" mentality. I wish we had blown the living tar out of Japan before they ever got close to Pearl Harbor. And if you have a brain you do too. Then my dad could have stayed home with his future bride and not traveled in uniform to Europe causing him to (in his own words) "go to bed every night remembering the eyes of the men I killed so that they wouldn't kill me." I hate that my dad had to live his life that way. But I'm grateful that he was willing to. We are the country that sends our soldiers to protect and liberate people that we don't even know. We send food, clothing, and medicine to take care of citizens of countries that can't take care of themselves. That is, to me, a strong definition of "goodness."

Okay, so that's how I feel on this night before 9/11/09. About a week after 9/11 I asked my family to please write down their memories of that day. I wanted to be able to read it myself and give it back to them years down the road. We tend to forget how we felt ... really truly felt ... after the passing of time. One of them actually took the time and wrote the mini-essay. I came across it after we moved. It shocked me. I realized there was pure fear in those comments. And I wonder if that fear is still there. Or has it simply been relegated into the hearts of those who visit National Cemeteries and stand over the graves of their families soldiers who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and wound up giving everything to keep us from another 9/11. I can't answer that question.

I can only hope we can find a way to stop the bickering and fighting and return to simply being good. Because honestly, I feel it slipping. And that scares me more than 11/22/63 or 9/11/01.


Anonymous said...

God bless you and you are right. We need to unite. But there unfortunately will be no uniting until we come together in God. Like the Tower of Babel that the Lord God brought down because man was united in sin we must realize the futility of life and love without God. It is like trying to breath air that has no oxygen.

Jeff your Brother

Kelly said...

Well said.