Friday, June 3, 2011

September 11, 2001

You may have noticed that I did not mention visiting Ground Zero while we were in New York. That omission was on purpose as I wanted to do a post that included the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania that we were planning on visiting on our way to St. Louis Missouri. Ground Zero, or perhaps we should no longer call it that as Faith, our tour guide, said that for New Yorkers the term doesn'treally symbolize how they look at the area any longer as they are focused on rebuilding, not just the physical structures but also their lives. Ground Zero was also not very interactive right now as we were not allowed to be on the site itself due to the construction of the new building going on as well as construction of a permanent memorial. Of course, this was the Thursday before the announcement that we had gotten Osama Bin Laden. We all so wished that we would have been able to be there that Sunday night instead of three days previously.

9-11 was a turning point for me personally. I had been teaching in Wautoma Wisconsin and was not happy with it, or with my life in the Oshkosh bar scene. After this tragedy, I made the decision that I would not continue to do things in my life that did not bring me joy and happiness as life could be, as we all were reminded of so horribly that day, very short. I grew up with my dad absolutely hating his job and I made the decision that I did not want to live out my life in that manner, dreading each and every day that I had to go to work. So I went out and bought an RV, got myself a job on the Alaska Railroad and got ready to leave Wisconsin mostly due to 9-11. I was slated to leave in April and in January I met Bill. I always ask myself where he was ten, or even five years earlier so that we could have lived our dream for longer. But it is said that you are where you belong at each stage of your life.

In the video you will see a clip of The Trinity Root, the 10 foot tall bronze sculpture that utilizes the roots from the Sycamore tree that saved St. Paul's Chapel in New York as it took the brunt of the damage from the imploding World Trade Center. As our tour guide Faith said, "It symbolizes us as Americans as you can break our branches but you can't destroy our roots."

The trip to the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville Pennsylvania was done mostly on the back roads. It is much like Gettysburg to the south in that it is a quiet, tranquil area where you almost can not believe such horror and tragedy had occurred there. The memorial that is currently on the site is a temporary structure and construction on the permanent memorial is still taking place. It is slated to open on the 10th anniversary of 9-11 which is in September of this year.

Inside the pole building there is a step by step accounting of the last minutes of the lives of the crew and passengers aboard. The most ironic part is that Flight 93 was running late that day and if it would have been just 6 minutes later the planes that were on time would have crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which might have been enough time for Flight 93 to have not taken off at all. There are transcripts of the final calls made from the passengers to their friends and families. It was very hard to read the transcripts of all the calls but the call from Honor Elizabeth Waino was extremely hard as she was so worried that her family would be able to survive what was going to happen and gave no thought to herself. It is possible to write a message to leave behind and as I was browsing the messages written during that very same week I noticed that the parents of passenger William Cashman appeared to have visited two days earlier, the Tuesday after the SEALS had done the "Let's Roll" and had gotten Bin Laden. Their note told him that we had gotten him and that hopefully now Brian would not have any more nightmares. They signed the note "Love, Mom and Dad". I am not sure who Brian was but to have nightmares for almost 10 years must have been just one more awful thing to come out of this senseless attack.

There have been over 40,000 momentos left at the temporary memorial which are collected every week by the National Park Service who runs it. They are keeping each and every one and they will be placed in the new permanent memorial when it is completed.

We should also remember the last words of Todd Beamer right before the passengers tried to retake the plane. "Let's Roll" has always been a phrase used to signify starting a project or an action. After 9-11 it has also come to symbolize bravery and heroism.

The dedication frame at the end of the video it is bit difficult to read but I have dedicated this clip to the Rescuers, the 3,000 victims, the people of New York and most of all, to all of us Americans as a reminder that we can, and that we must, stand united despite our differences.

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