Like when Regan was shot, the Berlin Wall came down, or Lady Di was killed, many of us will be able to recall the exact place and setting in which we received the news. I happened to be feeding my ten-month-old daughter in a high chair while watching Regis and Kelly when the first plane hit. My husband worked from home and I raced downstairs to interrupt his conference call to tell him the news.
We found out later that Pete's roommate for four years in college, Henry Ryan, who belonged to Engine 7 Ladder 1, happened to be filming a French documentary with the Naudet brothers that day. The group was on a call ten blocks away, with the cameras rolling, when the first plane went in to tower number two. The men were the first to arrive on the scene, the first team to make it in, and the only rescue team to make it out without losing a man.
It still gives me chills when I think about it. And when we went to Henry's wedding a year later it was spine-chilling to see the dance floor fill up with the solemn-faced brave men and toast the heros who didn't make it out that day. I felt small in their presence, which was not accurate by any stretch of the imagination — I was eight months pregnant with my son by then.
My nephews were teen and pre-teen when 9/11 happened. All three were affected by it in their own way, ways I will only be able to guess at. One grew up determined to help. In eighth grade, Asa organized his school to send care packages overseas when the war first started. Much to our dismay, all three nephews joined the Army when they became men; first Asa, then Justin, and finally Eric.
Please don't think our dismay is because we don't support them, we do. We had hopes of the safety of college or a secure job for them all, but they made their own choices. Recently, after a year-long deployment overseas in Iraq, the youngest one, Eric, died in a motorcycle accident. In our minds he is a hero for serving his country, just like all the men who do so now and who have in the past, whether he died in service or not.
The brave men and women, of all races, all religions, and of all sexual preferences, who serve in any capacity, are heros in my mind. Most times what they do is a thankless job. Whether they are firemen, soldiers, policemen, medics, doctors, nurses, teachers or clergy, they all serve our populace and are heros to our country. We only seem to honor them when the chips are down and not 24/7 like we should, but it's much better now than it was after Vietnam, so I'm not going to complain too much.
Perhaps as a whole, we all need to remember Kennedy's words and hold them closer to our heart:
"Ask not what your country can do for you, but you can do for your country."
Without the people, the people with attitudes that reach beyond their own needs and their own interests, where would we be as a nation?
On the whole, there might be lots of things wrong with our country right now. But one thing everyone can be proud of is the heros we have within our ranks. They may not fit into the cookie-cutter alpha role many authors portray them as, they may look and act just like you and I — but they are heros nevertheless. And I'm honored to know them, one and all.
Where were you the day the planes hit? Do you have a story of heroism you'd care to share? Do you have a soldier you'd like me to send a care package to? Asa is returning to his home base soon and asked me to not send him my latest two packages. If you have a relative serving overseas who'd like one, please comment and leave your email, I'll select two soldiers randomly to receive them.