In Memoriam: The Day When Everything Changed

As I prepared my blogs ahead of time, I came to 9/11. Monday is my regular posting day, and I had a post about writing ready to go. Then I typed the date.

And stopped.

Memories swamped me. Where I was. How I felt. How I needed to connect with my traveling husband, and the phone circuits didn’t work.
Even though it’s not a “special” anniversary this year, I recalled it all. I’ve never understood what makes one anniversary better than another. Twenty-five years is silver, and fifty years is golden.

Every year should be a celebration of the fact there is another year to celebrate.

Anniversaries of hard times aren’t celebrated at all. But they are marked on the calendars of our heart. Four years since Mom died. Eight years since Gram died. Five years since my friend moved away.

Today is that day.

A day loaded with melancholy and horror, grief and terror. On the flip side, it’s brightened by national pride and patriotism.

New York City skyline

In memoriam of This Day, I’m sharing an informal bit of poetry.

It Only Takes a Moment

One moment
Life is business as usual
Alarm clock and workout wear
Planning sack lunches
Checking the to-do list
Heading to the gym
Kickboxing and sweat
Another day in the life
Of a blessed American citizen

One moment later
Everything tilts sideways
Planes used as cannon balls
Sirens, smoking towers
People gaping, weeping
Unquenchable fires
No way to evacuate
This has to be special effects
But no, this moment is all too real

Only minutes later
Another plane crashes
The other tower flames
Too much horror
Not enough time
Rescuers become victims
Newscasters are speechless
Video gives awful detail
Life becomes a horror show

One hour later
Jumpers and screamers
A tower implodes
Thousands of innocents
Who woke up to normal
Sleep forever
No one escapes
Tragic terror
Every foundation rattles

Heroes step forth in this darkest of hours
Defined in their moment of sacrifice

One day later
Prayer vigils with candlelight
Fluttering flags at half-mast
Churches overflow
A nation of mourners
Stunned to silence
Awakened to need
God Bless America
News time sign-off

One week in slow motion
Weeping abates, anger stirs
Patriots stand, orders obeyed
Racial profiling
Fingers pointing
Vengeance and blame
Can justice prevail
To rebuild the ruins
Or repay the death toll

One new tomorrow
Greeted in gratitude
Forged in unity
Gained in freedom
Faded with time
Gone so soon
Forgotten in life
Until that one moment
When everything changes

Again


On September 11, 2001, I walked out of the gym after my kickboxing class at the fitness club. I glanced at the screen (they have TV monitors everywhere in those places) and wondered what movie trailer was playing.
Seriously. It was so horrifying, it had to be from a film.
In my car, the radio announcers explained the situation on the East Coast. Shock numbed me. Many hours later it sank in, devastated me.
The experience is beyond words, but maybe those I shared above touch a little bit of the significance of That Day When Everything Changed.
Where were you when you learned about the 9/11 terrorist attack?

The Price of Freedom

Image from freegreatimages.com
Image from freegreatimages.com

July the Fourth celebrated America’s Independence Day. It wasn’t intended to be just another day off work. Or another opportunity to eat too much and stay out to late. Those fireworks aren’t meant to entertain us with their colorful display.

July the Fourth should be a time when we reflect on the freedoms we enjoy in the United States. On this day, we fill our hearts and mouths with praise for our right to speak independently from our government and worship God as our own personal convictions dictate. We have much for which to be thankful.

One thing Americans neglect on this day is counting the cost. I’m not talking about your grocery bill for all those brats and burgers. Or the exorbitant sum spent on personal and community fireworks. I’m talking about something of intrinsic value – life.

The price of freedom cannot be measured in dollars and cents (although I’m certain bureaucrats have tried). Instead, this precious commodity comes at the expense of lives and blood.

To Recap the Price for America

Freedom is never free. We enjoy the benefits of someone else’s sacrifice. Most of the time, men and women in uniform protect our freedoms at the cost of their own life and health.

For American freedom, the cost in lives can be calculated by totaling the casualties in all the conflicts in which we protected our own lands or aided our allies from hostile invasion (the list doesn’t include dozens of other battles, namely with the Native Americans):

  • Revolutionary War: 25,000
  • War of 1812: 15,000
  • Spanish American War: 2,446
  • Mexican American War: 13,283
  • Civil War: 750,000
  • The Great War (aka World War I): 117,465
  • World War II: 419,000
  • Korean War: 36, 516
  • Vietnam: 58,209
  • Iraq: 4,804 (and counting)
  • Afghanistan: 3,441(and on the rise)*

Our freedom cost 1,445,164 people the ultimate price. After lining up all the people who live in Vermont and South Dakota, you would still need to find 5,243 people to match this number. And those two states rank amount the five smallest population-wise in the US.

Scary, isn’t it?

If the total number of wounded were added to this total, the staggering amount would immobilize us. Or it should.

Why do these people, military and civilian alike, put themselves in harm’s way? They understand that liberty involves sacrifice. Freedom is never free. A steep price in blood and lives purchases our often unappreciated freedom.

Have you thanked God for your physical freedoms lately? What about thanking a man or woman in military uniform for their service? They might have to pay the ultimate price someday soon.

Today, stop and consider the grave payment made for your freedom to take a day off work and chill with friends or family. When those fireworks light up the sky, remember the “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” mentioned in The Star-Spangled Banner. Be grateful. Not everyone is enjoying freedom today.

*Numbers from http://www.militaryfactory.com/american_war_deaths.asp and verified with other resources.

**This post, in its entirety, was previously published at the blog of FMBC on July 1, 2014.

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