Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's 9-11. And although it's been twelve years since the attacks, it's still a day I can't bring myself to be flip. It's a somber day. It's odd to think that although none of my children were alive that day, at least three of them are old enough to ask questions and wonder about those events. Mac saw some highlights on TV and asked if "that was an accident or was it bad guys." I told him bad guys and he shrugged and said "that's too bad."

And that's all we really will share about 9-11. In the upcoming years there are many things I want to share with them. I want to tell them about Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol singing "God Bless America." I'll tell them about the National Anthem being played at Buckingham Palace. I'll tell them about Fr. Mychel Judge who died giving the last rites to dying firefighters. I'll tell them about the record blood donations. And the sense of pride that came as the President, in body armor, threw out the first pitch at the World Series. I will tell them about Rick Rescorla, Todd Beamer and Tom Burnett, who was a hero before that September day. I hope to inspire them, to teach them that no matter what, always stand up, always fight because evil wins when good people sit still. It might result in the countless chirps coming from the rubble, fire fighter homing beacons indicated man down. But it is better to die for something than live for nothing....or anything. It is necessary to know who you are, what you stand for and why you believe what you do.

You don't have to rush the cockpit or charge into the collapsing building. Countless regular old joes assisted in the largest ever evacuation by boat that day. You just have to do, when the need arises. Don't wait for someone else. Be the first. Be the leader. Let others follow you. But don't seek glory. Don't boast. Because you aren't doing anything special. You are doing what you ought to do. Never let those in positions of authority keep you from doing the right thing. Before anything you must answer "did I do right?" You must live with yourself, take pride in who you are.

I hope to focus on these lessons, rather than the violence and evil of that day. Sadly, I know that my children will see and experience plenty of evil in their lifetimes. I hope to enable them to handle themselves as true Americans. The kind of people who say "We're surrounded. That simplifies the problem of getting to these people and killing them." The kind of people who don't allow for defeat.

And it doesn't have to be only in time of war or violence. It can be any day. It can be every day. It simply means rising to the occasion, whenever than occasion presents itself.

American Airlines Flight 11 was the first airline to hit that day. It departed Boston and was forced towards New York. As it headed towards mayhem and death, it flew along the Hudson River. Seven and a half years later, another flight took a similar path along the Hudson. US Airways flight 1549 took off. It was a similarly sized plane, and carried three times the number of passengers that Flight 11 had.  Quickly into the flight, just as with Flight 11, it became clear that things would not go as planned. Flight 1549 would not reach it's intended destination. It too would fly along the Hudson in an ill fated drift towards history. But unlike Flight 11, there was an American at the helm of Flight 1549. And unlike those controlling Flight 11, for the pilot of Flight 1549, death and destruction wasn't a goal. It wasn't an option. So Chesty Sullenberger did what was needed, he did his job. And in doing so, Chesty Sullenberger did more than just save 150 lives, not to mention those that would come later. He reclaimed that route. A path that had led to death and destruction was now the path of resilience and survival. In true American fashion, something ugly was reclaimed and made triumphant.

Again, as before, strangers with boats came to the rescue. Strangers came, to help strangers, at no small risk to themselves. Because.

Taking something and make it good and beautiful. No matter how large or how average. Being the person who does that. Always. That is the lesson from 9-11 I wish to impart on my children.

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