Friday, September 9, 2011

Marking and Remembering 9/11/2001

The star spangled banner flutters over my walnut tree.

For starters, I hoisted a brand new Old Glory on the family flag pole at the corner of our property. The day was gorgeous, as it was on that September day a decade ago. The colors of the new flag seemed to shine against the blue of the California sky.

I'm not going to mark this artificial anniversary by reliving that awful day. I've seen enough of those photos and videos and I remember it all too clearly. I'm going to honor the day by remembering how lucky I am.  How lucky we all are.

The idea behind the evil of that day was to bring about our end. The hatred that caused it was hatred against everything we stand for: our free choice, our freedom of thought and speech. Even the most basic of our rights--like women driving--were all targets of what Winston Churchill might have called the wickedness of that day.

I celebrate that a blow like that brought out a spontaneous simultaneity of joy in being American that bloomed all around us for days and weeks afterward. It brought out a flag at every house and red, white, and blue banners to the lamp posts of the town where I lived back then.

I celebrate that we did this, instead of turning on our neighbors. We talked to one another instead.

I look back over our two centuries of history and marvel at the men and women who have been willing to put on the uniform of this country--in difficult times such as these--leave family and friends behind, and risk life and limb to fight those who would have loved to enslave us. To have us be slaves as they are.

How these same soldiers have ended wars by giving their rations to hungry children. How they have come home. Gone on with their lives.

We're blessed. So blessed. The evil of that day was met by the depth of our strength to continue being the culturally rich, free, open place we are and mean to remain.

I found an old uniform of my father's a few weeks ago that made me think about this.  It is a bespoke, khaki, linen, summer officer's uniform he had made in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama--most likely after Pearl Harbor shook his generation as 9/11 shook our own. This old, tailored uniform evokes such a different time and place. The fabric doesn't even contain a hint of polyester.

I looked carefully at the buttons because I had never seen any like them before. There are none on any of his other old uniforms. Not that I have seen.

The buttons show a wall of brick fortifications, a golden sun beam, and a diving eagle holding a banner carrying the French word "Essayons."

I looked it up and it turns out that it is the slogan of the Army Corps of Engineers--a slogan that goes back to the American War of Independence when French engineers helped start our own Corps. The button design goes back as far as the 18th century.

It is a great French word "essayons" and it can mean many things.  The engineers use the translation: "Let us try." But it can just as easily mean "Go for it." "Give it a whirl." Or a version of it could be that famous 9/11 quote: "Let's roll."

It is, to me, a fitting motto as we move forward into the post 9/11 world. Essayons.

Together: let us go forward.  Together: let us try. Together: let's roll. 

The bad guys don't always win. Ask Osama bin Laden.

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Jack said...

That's a beautiful flag photo, Robin. Two more groups to share in our admiration are those whose dangerous penetrations of enemy cells here and worldwide save miilons at great risk to themselves - people who "don't spend a dime on public relations", who prevail, suffer and die anonymously in the ugly invisible war that must be fought in the early hours if we're to survive; and those tough, in-their-face-in- the-dead-of-night CIA and other hunter-killer teams on the ground in the dirtiest, darkest ratholes of the world who've personally killed the countless unknown pestilents who threaten us, and who drop into their remote spider holes in God-protected lands to relay targeting uplinks for pilots remotely bringing God's Vengeance - Death from Above. The lice can't sit down for a cup of tea without wondering if an unseen wall of American fire is about to bring the Remember 9-11 damn-damn on their heads. God's grace to all to whom we owe our lives, uniformed and civilian.

Robin Chapman said...

It isn't an organdy and birthday cake world out there. Today, Islamic radicals attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and appear to have set it on fire. Amen to your salute to all those who do the thankless work of keeping us safe and free.