Each year as 9/11 approaches we relive that day in 2001. "Where were you when you heard that America was under attack?" is the common question.
A day in August a few weeks before September 11, 2001 is more vivid in my mind each year. My father celebrated his 68th birthday and I hosted the party. I decided to have all of the grandkids play a game called How Well Do You Know Grampa? Even those across the country played by email.
We all had the opportunity to answer a quiz about Grampa's life. We did not get many things right but we learned a lot of fascinating Grampa trivia that day.
He travelled the world in his engineering job and we learned that he had been to over 30 countries. Delivering papers earned him his first paycheck. He remembers horse drawn carts delivering ice blocks to his back porch icebox.
Most telling was his memory of the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Only eight at the time, his memories were sweet and sad.
That day two of his older sisters' celebrated a shared birthday. With four teenage girls in his home, he was the only boy. After cake, candles and singing the girls all left to go to the picture show downtown with friends.
My father stayed home with his parents while they listened to the radio. They heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt make his famous radio announcement of the Japanese Imperial Army attack on Pearl Harbor.
My father remembered his mother's tears - something he had never seen before. He didn't fully understand what it all meant because Hawaii was so far away. But, he knew it must be terrible. He wondered if he should be crying, too.
His father walked to town to retrieve his sisters because everyone belonged together at home on this day. Then, his dad went to work at his newspaper circulation desk. There would be an extra edition out that night.
As I sat watching the events of that tragic 9/11 almost sixty years later, I remembered my father's story. We had marveled and rejoiced that America remained safe and peaceful for all of those long years--until now.
My children aged 16, 14, 8 and 5 saw me cry as I could not pull myself away from the television all day. We watched in real time as plane after plane crashed into buildings killing so many innocent people. We did not know what would happen or where they might attack next.
We lost more than lives that day. We lost our sense of peace and security and even some of our innocence about life. America lost its trust of other nations, religions and people groups and we still struggle to know who our friends are.
Our children can no longer say that they live in a nation that has not been attacked on its own soil in their lifetime. They too lost some of their innocence about life.
Whatever your memories of 9/11/01, you were changed. We lost much. I'm still evaluating what I learned and possibly gained. Perhaps, it is that I value time spent with those I love, more. I appreciate the sacrifices of firemen, policemen and servicemen more.
Every year I pause and remember and re-process the events. Ground Zero is still empty as no one knows exactly what to build to properly memorialize it. Americans, too, are still mixed and undecided as they consider the whole experience. There are still lessons to learn--the story isn't finished.
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