Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say; and
Keep me out of your way.
- Fr. Mychal Judge, FDNY (died 9/11/01)
Every year in late September, early October, I head to the coast with a group of friends for some beach therapy. Our annual adventure is coming up soon, in fact. We've gone every year since 1999 - except one.
That September of 2001 we were counting down the days until we could wave goodbye to our families, ready for some alone time.... a few days not having to do anything for anyone but ourselves.
But on the afternoon of the 11th, we changed our minds. We no longer wanted to wave goodbye to our families - we wanted to wrap them around us, so close and tight we could feel their breath and smell their familiar sweetness.
It wasn't a decision driven by fear. We knew the odds of some terrorist targeting our little Texas Hill Country town, or the little fishing town on the Gulf where we sought some peace and quiet, were slim to none.
But as that day progressed, we were reminded not to take our loved ones or the time we have with them for granted. Not to let a day go by without making sure they knew they were our whole world. Not to forget that every morning we may be opening our eyes to our very last day on this earth.
So that autumn we soaked up our families instead of the sunshine. We stayed close to home, pondered the changes in our country and our world. We prayed for peace.
But the next year we packed our swimsuits, sunscreen, magazines, Bloody Mary mix, and vodka, and headed for the beach. We've done so ever since. We continued our lives, relished our freedom, refusing to let fear mold our lives, for that would allow the terrorists to win.
But we haven't forgotten the lessons we learned on September 11, 2001 and the days that followed, about the things that truly matter and the steel-strength of this nation. We haven't forgotten how we overcame our differences, although some days (especially around election time) it's hard to believe. We haven't forgotten those ordinary citizens who were called to be heroes - and accepted the call. We haven't forgotten that by going about our lives, speaking our minds and sticking up for one another, we are fighting a war - and winning.
"This day and every day. Tear us down and we WILL rebuild. Knock us down and we WILL arise. We are people of diverse faith, ideologies, and color. We may be distracted or divided by internal matters, such as politics, but we are America and we will remain."
~Johnny "Happy" Valentine, veteran and teacher