Monday, September 11, 2006

What Happened to Patriotism?

Monday, September 11, 2006
Kathryn Blair Lee

Holiday Extravaganzas, Kathryn Blair Lee was never one to do things halfway. Consider Thanksgiving. "There had to be at least 25 people and dinner had to last three to five hours," said her husband, E. Philip Lee, noting that there were always a theme and printed menus. "None of this gobble up the turkey and go back and watch football." At 55, a senior vice president with Marsh Inc. who had recently moved to New York, she was a self-taught elder stateswoman in her information technology group. But in a field dominated by youth she stayed a step ahead."Her energy extended to every aspect of her life," said Richard Shewmaker, who had worked with her since 1993. "I remember a breathtaking cluster of California poppies on her floating home in Portland, Ore., the goldfish pond with a rocky stream and waterfall she designed at another. "When I think of Kathryn in her office on the 96th floor of the trade center, I can see the pretty teacup and saucer she had brought with her. Those touches were wherever she was."

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This is of course a very small memoriam of a woman I myself had never met, but nontheless feel compelled to memorialize. Not only Kathryn, but the Co-workers and Friends she worked with; the Maintenance staff, Restaurant workers, Brokers, Traders, Lawyers she passed in hallways, elevators, perhaps on the subway. For the Countless Firefighters and Policemen and Women, for the hundreds of Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers, Sons and Daughters, Uncles, Aunts. For the babies who will never know their lost parent. For the Mommy, who must comfort that child, when she cannot console herself. And for the Dad who questions himself for his own surviver's guilt, as he struggles to answer the many questions from his Motherless children.
For the many many Passengers of those planes, and I just shudder to think of what they lived through in their last moments; for them and their Families. For the Pilots, Crew and the Brave that fought back, to bring a plane down in a field in Pennsylvania, to avoid perhaps a far worse trajedy, than we were already witnessing; with utmost disbelief.
For the Staff of the Pentagon, the Families, Friends and those who live in the aftermath of the devestating hole that was penetrated in one of our most pretentious buildings.
To each and every soul that was lost to the devestation of what is now known as simply "9/11" I offer my condolences and memoriam. Whether it reaches or touches anyone is of no importance. I will never forget, it has changed me. I am not bitter of our country like I see many are. I am bitter at terrorism and ignorance. I hate the fact that people don't even realize they become part of what led up to "9/11" in the first place. Ignorance.
My biggest question is this: what happened to Patriotism? When the towers fell, and the planes were grounded, something in our hearts changed, and we as a nation, changed. I felt the change in my own heart. I felt a need to love my country, to be proud of my country. To wanted
to feel safe again, even after being so vulnerable so soon after these hateful attacks. My heart begged for my country to become whole. Flags flew on cars, and trees, and homes. Churches, businesses, cemetaries. Everywhere you looked, a flag, an American flag flew, bold and bright. On the radio, there were patriotic songs playing, and they would just tug at my heart strings, I would cry at each and every one.
My daughter was in a cheerleading competition, and her entire unit, from the tiniest to the oldest, made up an American flag to the song, "Proud to be an American" at the local competition. People were in complete silence, at first, and then, it was an entire stadium singing the song, in tears. What happened to the Patriotism?
Where has it gone? Over time, little by little, it has turned to blame. Blame it on the former administration. Blame it on the current administration. Blame it on the passengers that didn't fight back. Blame it on lack of airport security. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! Blame it on terrorism. If anything, learn from it, and stop the blaming. Nothing is won in living in the past. The lives of the lost will certainly not arise from the ashes and dust of those towers long gone. Only their memories are left to the loved ones left behind. To them, we owe a final tribute of hope. Hope for our future. Hope for our children. Hope for our country.
Where IS our Patriotism? It seems to be stuck somewhere between blame and loss, instead of hope and rebirth. And that is where terrorism wins and makes us a target again. Because then we fight within ourselves, our borders, and what made us a nation in the first place. We have become a profiling, racist nation. Scary, and true. Wrong, yet understood.
Where is our Patriotism?
I remember watching, in disbelief the inferno of the first tower, wondering what could have made such a fire. My sister and I had just sent my girls off to school and had GMA on TV. I was standing in front of the TV, watching as the second plane was coming, not really understanding what was happening as I was watching. Then it hit. We just looked at each other, and cried. We were terrified, because we knew something in our country was terribly wrong.
We were holding our babies, then not even a year old, too young to understand; and I thought, I need to get my girls. They need to be with me. We live just a few miles from a major airport and fortunately, The Boys From Syracuse, our own F-16 fighters. We have been used to the sound of those jets for all of our lives. But something was very different that morning. Their flight pattern was different. They normally take off in a Northwestern pattern, but on September 11, they took off and headed East. We felt safe, yet terrified.
I remember calling Frank and telling him what was happening, and he thought I was joking at first. But other wives were calling in, horrified, as well. He soon realized, this was no joke. I brought him a radio, so they could listen at the plant to what was happening. The only thing on both radio and TV, was news of that terrible day. For the first time, the skies over Syracuse were eerily silent.
I hesitated for an hour about picking up my girls from school; and finally, I went. I needed my children with me. If we were under attack, I wanted the safety of my kids with me. We were too afraid of being so close to the airport, so many conflicting reports of missing planes. We heard four, then eight. We left the area. I will never forget the fear we felt, my sister and I. We were absolutely terrified. And we were brought so much closer together. I remember us both thinking and saying how much we appreciated each other, and loved each other.
When we picked the girls up from school, she ran down the hall to each of them, hugging them, thankful to see them. They didn't understand why so many kids were leaving school. Why were we there to pick them up? Why did so many Moms and Dads have such sad and scared faces?
We remain very close. We haven't forgotten. The girls and I were watching a little bit of coverage lastnight; I asked them what they remembered. They don't really remember much more than my fear. That and leaving school, and seeing the buildings, the towers. They see the hate now. There will be a moment of silence in their school today. I'm sure there will be many of those. For now, I am away from the TV, I saw enough of that five years ago. But still hold this one question:


Katherine said...

I have to agree with you - the country really came together in the months after 9/11. It was a different feeling - we're in this together - now, it's gone again. Really sad.

Tamra said...

You know -- we did come together and it is sad to see how we as a nation have disintegrated. I was at a conference on 9/11, as innkeepers, we represented a wide variety of ages and had many reactions from wandering bewilderment, fear, anger and the overwhelming need to get home. We also had speakers who had flown out to talk to us, who had NO way home. One of our members, a retired Airforce Col., got up and said, if we all leave, running, and cancelling everything -- the Terrorists have won. If we stick together, present a united front and go on with our lives, then they haven't taken everything from us. I can't tell you how many days his words run through my head as I watch the country divide.