September 11, 2001 – Never Forget

These are random thoughts as I listened to the Concert to Honor presented by Washington National Cathedral on Friday September 9 2011. You can view the concert here. I have done very little editing here. So you will have to excuse errors in syntax and grammar.

As the “President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra played, Washington National Cathedral Choir and United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters” sang, the Concert to Honor to remember the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, my heart was both heavy and light. I share the space at this service with many in uniform and am proud of their carriage and bravery to serve our country and allow us the freedom we have in America.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks about the bond we have from all of our immigrant forefathers and mothers who came to America to give us a better life. He is right and we need to remember that. And the attacks of September 11, 2001 shook America and placed us on unsure footing. Ten years later, we have men and women in service to protect our freedom. To be sure, we are still able to live a better life – and have a government of by and for the people because our freedom is protected and safe because of those who serve.

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honour.  Thomas William Jefferson

The music, Our Town, Steal Away, Adagio for Strings, and lastly Brahm’s Requiem (Mass for the Dead) – so moved are we in the audience, we don’t applaud at the end of each performance. Deep in thought. And the Choirs rendition of America the Beautiful starting low and slow and building to a patriotic crescendo that brings us all to our feet. As their voices grew louder and prouder you could not feel thankful and thoughtful all at the same time.

General David Petraus, Director of the CIA talks of the new, greatest generation – a phrase I remember from the day so John F. Kennedy. I agree with him, our voices must not be silent for those who have fallen. And Brahms Requiem begins with video and still photos in sync with music. I did not bring enough tissue and was not expecting the emotion I felt so clearly and deeply.

Thoughts on Brahm’s Requiem – so many serving in our armed services and in this case our Marines in dress uniform playing an instrument they have probably played all their lives. Here now, in their military dress uniforms playing for peace and remembrance – which I believe is how anyone in the military wants our world – at peace. The Marine orchestra and choir members using their talents to entertain and bring such thoughtfulness to this September 11 10th anniversary service. And Brahm’s Requiem is a test of stamina for any voice or instrument musician – 75 minutes. There is no no doubt a Marine can play and perform well for more than 60 minutes. And the singers standing and voiceful! As we watch photographs and videos of the tragedies and results of September 11 ten years seems like yesterday.

Billowing cloud of dust

Photos and video of smoldering buildings, rescue dogs, photos of missing persons on walls, dust covered people walking away from a street covered in building collapse. It all seems like yesterday watching it on television on September 11, 2001. Remembering calls from friends in NY who were on the last train stopped before it left New Jersey for New York Trade Center station, “first responders” a term I had never heard or used until September 11, 2001.

The Aftermath September 11, 2001 and beyond….

Day after day for weeks of photos and videos of rescue turned into what? Looking at the piles and piles of glass concrete and steel. Who else could be under there and still survive? Rescue dogs needing a break from not finding anyone. Seven levels of grief applied then – disbelief and denial no no no no no. Not America. Not New York. Really? No no no no!

Immediately after watching the towers collapse live.  Get home. Where’s Jeff? At work on the 48th floor of a high rise in Chicago. Picture of FAA map with no planes on it. None. But what if they attack Chicago. I want you home. He was not assuring and did not come home. Later he shares someone they took out of retirement for a great new career 90th floor of one of the towers – gone gone gone. Family retirement to be no more. Heartbreaking.

The vigils, candles, speeches, guesses and assumptions if who and where. How is everyone coping? How can they possibly? Families without parents, parents without children.  Firehouses decimated. Stories of missing a meeting, bus, train and survived. Still people trying to reach loved ones and hoping beyond all hope. Heart wrenching stories on the news, radio. No no no no!

Entire cities and communities impacted. Phone calls, notes, voice mails, emails from friends in New York and DC about their lives the cities. Where they were. Neighborhoods missing large numbers of people and dissolved by the loss of friends. First responders who lost colleagues, friends, loved ones. No no no no!

Airports then and now. Then and still today, we stand and applaud as troops walk thru on their way to or from their service to our country. They give it – willingly and bravely so we can sit at home safe and sound.  The annual airshow in Chicago has new meaning.

We cannot forgot

Two years, twenty years later. The fact that our history textbooks do not include September 11, 2001 is shocking to me. Children growing up without a parent for no reason. How do you explain that and still be sure a memory is there of their life and tragedy? Yes, we must move in but we cannot forget.

The juxtaposition of the Marines playing as photos of their comrades preparing to serve is too much. Oh the yellow ribbons! A pride in America as we talk about immigrant rights or lack thereof. MIA bracelets. This small congregation of people at this concert service. What will we do? What should we do? Lest we forget.  We cannot forget.

I remember when military fatigues went from old school traditional green to dust colored pixels of sand and brown. We are fighting in too many new arenas. Sitting on a plane next to an officer bringing his soldier home….in a coffin.

Friday was a long day for everyone at the concert. But we had to be here for the Concert to Honor. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion and memories. Today is the Concert for Hope presented by Washington National Cathedral – I may post if I can my thoughts after the event…..

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