I find that I couldn't do justice to
this day. Every time I started to write my thoughts and feelings
about That Awful Day eleven years ago my eyes filled with tears. I
still feel the pain in my heart, the hole that has never fully
healed. I see the images flashing on the TV screen again as if it
were happening right now. I think of the people lost, of friends I
will never see again, of families torn apart, all in the name of an
insane and murderous ideology.
I know it's a cop out, but I find I
just can't do it. I can't sit here in front of my computer and tear
open the still barely healed wound. I can't.
I looked through the Weekend Pundit archives in search of an appropriate illustration for Memorial Day. Instead I came across this post from 2006 which related an event that we experienced that Memorial Day. The memory is as fresh as if it happened today and still makes me a little misty-eyed.
It is Memorial Day.
It is a day to remember the honored dead, those who gave their lives to keep us free.
It often is a day of parades, memorial services, speeches, and memories.
This year, it was also the day of the funeral of Gilmanton, NH native PFC Nicholas R. Cournoyer, with 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, New York. Nicholas died while serving in Iraq.
My family and I went to have breakfast at the Paugus Diner late this morning. As we were eating we saw a number of people carrying American flags gathering outside the entrance of the Bayside Cemetery in Laconia. Some folks in the diner thought that they must be getting ready for a Memorial Day parade. But one of the waitresses informed them that PFC Cournoyer was going to be laid to rest.
All I had to do was look at Deb and she knew what it is I wanted to do.
I quickly finished my meal, paid the check, and walked out to the road, joining a number of others there waiting for the funeral cortège to arrive. Deb and BeezleBub joined me a few minutes later once they finished their meals.
We heard the procession long before we saw it.
The rumble of dozens of motorcycles came closer, led by the Laconia and Belmont PD motorcycle units. A small number of cars followed them. And then, curiously, a white pickup truck with rock and roll music blaring from its windows approached. It wasn't until it was almost even with us that we could see that it carried the flag draped casket of PFC Cournoyer. Somehow the music seemed fitting. Someone in the crowd said that it was Nicholas' favorite.
A long white limousine followed the pickup close behind.
As the casket-bearing truck pulled even with us, Deb and BeezleBub put their hands over their hearts and I removed my hat and placed it over my heart. It was then that my vision blurred and I realized tears were running down my face. I looked to Deb and saw that she too was crying. I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to me. We continued to watch the procession as it entered the cemetery. More than 200 vehicles filed past.
The parades, the speeches, the memorial services that denote Memorial Day became all the more poignant for the funeral of PFC Nicholas R. Cournoyer. For today, we remember the honored dead.
The candle that has burned in one window of The Manse for months now will be carefully removed and packed away.
The WP Niece has returned from her tour of duty in Afghanistan and is now with the WP In Laws in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Her e-mails and pictures kept us up to date on the goings on in the small Afghan village where she and two other Army women made their home. Despite the preparation by the Army before they deployed, the culture shock was still surprising to her (and to us).
As he talked, I even thought about an old Saturday Night Live skit in which an amiable, bumbling President Ronald Reagan, played by Phil Hartman, goes behind closed doors to suddenly become a masterful operator in total charge at the White House. The transformation in Bush was that stunning to me.
As I've written more than once that Dubya's like that good ol' boy who will invite you into his home for a couple of cold ones and some poker, and you'll leave some time later a little drunk and lot lighter in the wallet.
As time has gone by and Obama has been put his stamp on the presidency, George W. Bush's image has been rehabilitated. Those highway billboards picturing a smiling and waving Bush and the tag line "Miss me yet?" may have been a bit of satire, but somehow I think more than a few people, including some Democrats, do indeed miss him.
Though Harrison had known Bush for a number of years, he didn't really understand him until he had the opportunity to have dinner with him at the White House one evening, an informal meal with just Bush, Harrison, and Mark McKinnon, Bush's campaign media adviser. As Harrison described it:
I left the White House in a daze. I even got lost in the pitch-black darkness and had to drive around the small parking lot for a few minutes to find my way to the gate. I called my wife, and she asked how the evening had gone. I couldn't answer.
"I've never known you to be speechless," she said, genuinely surprised.
I finally said, "It was like sitting and listening to Michael Jordan talk basketball or Pavarotti talk opera, listening to someone at the top of his game share his secrets."
It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find others have found themselves feeling exactly the same thing after spending time with Bush, even now, despite the fact that he's been out of office for over two-and-a-half years.
One of the things that surprised Harrison: Bush is a voracious reader. Most of what he read was historical non-fiction. As Harrison tells us, his understanding of history, particularly those parts made by his predecessors, helped him understand the broader context of what he had to deal with as President. It's a shame the present occupant of the White House lacks even a modicum of that understanding.
Is it any wonder George W. Bush is looking better every day as we look back upon his presidency?
Like many of you, I've been watching some of the various TV shows commemorating That Awful Day. I've recorded more than a few, being unable to watch more than a couple of minutes before feeling the pain and the rage I felt back then.
As more than one person has told me it feels like it was only yesterday, not ten years ago. It was only yesterday America found itself at war with an intractable, brutal enemy that recognizes no innocents, sees murder as a way to some vaguely pornographic glory, and holds life cheap.
The words that follow I wrote a few years ago and they still are fitting, expressing what needs to be said about That Awful Day.
It's hard to believe it's been years.
It still hurts, that heartache that never really goes away.
Remembering That Awful Day still brings tears to my eyes.
So many gone.
So many died.
So many hearts broken.
So many families torn asunder.
So many heroes that never thought twice about their own safety working hard to save the lives of so many others.
Other heroes whose last words were "Let's roll."
Let us never forget that day of thunder, fire, smoke, heroic deeds, tearful goodbyes, and at the end, mournful silence.
The following is a post from sometime WP contributor Bill Johnson, followed by a bleg/ad/announcement for a benefit hosted by a local establishment on behalf of a local New Hampshire veteran's organization. Normally we here at WP don't post such things, but for this cause I am more than willing to make an exception.
We live in a Republic.
Those that are educated in, or self-educated about what this Republic entails genuinely support it and those who genuinely serve its function.
When an American citizen swears the oath of loyalty to serve in the armed forces, there is most assuredly a pact between themselves and the government whose sole purpose is to Stand for the American people. Each agrees to take responsibility for the other in both the short and long term. At the same time and at every moment it should be understood that a government is made of people and it is inherently inferior to fulfill the exact fullness of the virtues to which it sets itself. Virtues that are goodly inspired will always be wanting of human ability to achieve them in their totality. We are imperfect when measured against ourselves, and we are far from perfect when measured against goodly, and yes, Godly virtues, particularly when tied to any bureaucracy. Holding each of these three separate ideas as their own truth, a person who does believe in them faces a challenge. We have spoke for a brief time, and though this language is "lofty", the nature and ramifications of all these thoughts, feelings, and internal forces lead an American of simple good conscience to think that perhaps those who go to the battlefield in our name are not singularly the responsibility of the government to help when help is needed. "Take care of those who take care of you."
The Thirsty Crows Pub is excited to host the Liberty House for a spaghetti benefit dinner. On Thursday July the 21st there will be an all you can eat spaghetti (and meatballs and meat sauce and garlic bread) dinner for $8.99, of which $5 for every plate goes toward the endeavors of Liberty House. Liberty House is a program dedicated to help homeless veterans of any age or war with temporary shelter and one on one personal aide. The Thirsty Crows encourages them to take any additional donations beyond our dinner proceeds. The benefit dinner runs from 5 pm to 8pm, those that have bought the special dinner previous to 8 pm can continue to receive more portions as long as The Thirsty Crows is open (within reason). The spaghetti benefit dinner is basically a portion of spaghetti and garlic bread either by itself or with marinara sauce, meatballs and sauce, meat marinara sauce, or both.
An average of one floor is being added every week and construction continues around the clock. While it will still be a few years before the building is complete, it already provides a view of the 9/11 Memorial, which is scheduled to open on September 11, 2011, exactly 10 years after The Terrible Day.
This day always seems to sneak up on me. I don't know if it's a conscious decision of mine or whether I'm just too busy living life. But every year over the previous eight years the eleventh day of the ninth month arrives and almost takes me unaware.
That Awful Day was nine years ago today.
Many of our children aren't old enough to know about or remember what happened. In their lives the World Trade Center towers never existed. There never was a scorched and burning scar on the side of the Pentagon. There never was that deep hole hammered into the ground by Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
For some it's just another day that also happens to be the anniversary of the attacks, something that happened long ago. But to me and many others, it was just yesterday. The sights and sounds are as fresh as if That Awful Day were happening right now.
It. Still. Hurts.
And we are the lucky ones.
Almost 3000 people died on That Awful Day. For some, the end came quickly. For others, they knew they were doomed and that there was no hope of being saved. It was only a matter of time before their time on Earth would end. And as they waited they called family and friends, giving them their last words of love, hope, and prayer.
Some waited in the growing smoke and flames until they could stand it no more and launched themselves into eternity and plummeted along the walls of steel, glass, and concrete to a certain but quick end. Others had no choice but to wait until their world collapsed around them, making them part of all that which once was the substance of the towers.
When the echoes of the rumbling and thunder of That Awful Day faded away, the dust settled, and the smoke drifted away, the world gasped at what had been wrought.
From the skies came death and then from the skies came...silence.
Slowly the skies emptied and then were empty. No contrails could be seen. No distant rumble or drone of flying aircraft could be heard. Nothing made by man moved in the air. All was still, as if to move would somehow deepen the grief and shatter our tenuous control over our emotions.
All over the world, American flags flew where perhaps they had been rarely seen before. And in a place that had helped give birth to America, red coated soldiers stopped in the midst of performing their duties, raised their instruments, and played the Star Spangled Banner. The crowds surrounding Buckingham Palace were stunned, for such a thing had never been done before. The Americans in the crowd sang the anthem as it played, even as tears filled their eyes and blurred their vision.
As a side note, Deb is working today. Normally one might think she wouldn't want to work on Memorial Day, but that's not the case. You see, Deb works at the New Hampshire Veterans Home, taking care of those who served so gallantly. Most of those she takes care of in her ward served in World War II and Korea. She knows their histories and how they served. And now, at the end of their lives, she is honored to take care of them as they have taken care of us.
What does it say about our new Commander-In-Chief when he can't be bothered to attend the American Legion's Salute To The Heroes Inaugural Ball, given to honor recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor?
Every President since Eisenhower has attended the ball. Until now.
I guess that shows us how committed he is to our veterans and those presently serving.
Having been a pilot I can say from experience they did a marvelous job bringing their crippled aircraft down to a safe, though unconventional landing. Any landing the passengers and crew can walk away from is a good one. (Or maybe I should say "swim away from", under the circumstances.)
Having had a few close calls myself, I can only guess that while the emergency was ongoing the only thought the flight crew in the cockpit had was to get their bird down safely. Nothing else mattered. But once down and their passengers and crew members were safely away, the reality of what they had just done kicked in. Then and only then would their emotions come into play. And I'll bet the first one was of stunned relief.