Column: Sept. 11 filled us with terror but helped rekindle American spirit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

There were flames licking the sky. Firefighters ran into the burning building as though they were oblivious to the perils within. It was like a movie scene scripted in Hollywood, but it was real.

Just the thought of last September 11 gives me a lump in my throat. The firefighters running into the burning World Trade Center epitomized bravery and sacrifice. I once asked my father what was the one thing that he remembered most in his life, other than family and personal things. Without hesitation, he answered, &uot;The bombing of Pearl Harbor.&uot; The tragedy of September 11, 2001 will be such a remembrance for most of us.

It is a day that will always be a shared experience for us. We will never forget it just as our ancestors never forgot the terrible wars, depressions, famines and plagues that they lived through. A year has passed, but the danger and the pain remain. September 11 has changed our way of life. Life will never be the same. Times are unsettled. We are still in shock. Security is tougher, but fear continues with talk of war.

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We are told that time heals all wounds. But does it? Do we miss our loved ones any less with the passage of time? Our memories may blur slightly, but the pain persists. My parents are both deceased. My father died in 1983 and my mother in 1990. I miss them greatly. Each and every day, I wish I could speak to my mother and my father. What a delight it would be to see my father’s smile and to hear my mother’s laugh. I became a storyteller because of my mother’s laugh. I discovered early in life that I could get away with a lot if I could make my mother laugh. I would welcome the opportunity to ask their advice and to seek their wisdom. To ask them all the questions I wish I had asked them. To listen to them the way I should have listened to them. To share our common stories. My parents lived a good, long life, but it is never easy to lose a loved one.

So many killed on September 11 were so young. They were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and those who could make the world a better place. My thoughts and prayers remain with those folks whose loved ones were victims of the terrorist attack or were killed in an effort to save lives on 9/11.

September 11 is a day of remembrance for us. It is a day filled with mixed emotions. A day of compassion, grief and sorrow. A day of anger, determination and confusion. But it is also a day of celebration. A time to pay homage to the courage and sacrifice of many. There are so many heroes &045; some we know of and others we will never know of.

If I had the power, I would roll the calendar back to September 10, 2001. I would restore lives and change the world, but I cannot, of course, do such a thing. What I can do is appreciate the good things that have resulted from 911. There are many. September 11, 2001 was a bad day. We need to make sure that our future September 11s are good days. We need to make sure that the terrorists do not win. There are many good things that are a direct result of 9/11. We learned how to cry, but we have found our ability to laugh once again. I hear the Pledge of Allegiance more often and I have never heard it said with more enthusiasm. The attitude of people is good and the optimism of the American people should give hope and resolve to us all. Working class values have returned. We realize now that our true heroes are firefighters and not football players, baseball players or movie stars. There is a lot more appreciation for our firefighters, the police and the military. Such heroes have paved the way in making it possible for the rest of us to enjoy freedom.

Their actions on a daily basis reinforce the human spirit. This is the greatest country on earth because of the brave folks who are willing to risk their lives to save others. Such heroes are the soul of America. We have often been told that that which does not kill us makes us stronger. I never realized how true that was until September 11, 2001. The American spirit has been born anew and has never been stronger. If we see flames, Americans will climb the stairs of a burning building. I love this country. God bless America.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.