My husband and I were standing at our living room window, watching a man walking down the distant road. The man lived nearby in a broken down house. Every day he walked two miles to a neighborhood bar where he spent his time.
“Night fell, darkness hid the two from sight”
He worked at walking.
Stumbling, weaving, tumbling, falling…
Each night at dusk he headed home, deaf to traffic sounds.
Reeling into roadside ditch, he lay upon the ground in bleak half-conscious stupor.
With effort, he crawled laboriously to the ditch’s edge, then worked at walking once again. The man continued through his nightly ritual.
A friend approached the sodden hulk; bending down, he knelt beside the fallen man. With steady arms, the friend began THE RESCUE.
The friend was not a hero. I was a bystander. Though years have passed, the vivid scene remains.
Whose life was changed? Whose journey reached a crossroad? Whose path was interrupted by a chance encounter? Was it the man? Was it the friend? Was it me?
Many years have passed since this incident took place.
My husband and I were standing at our living room window, watching a man walking down the distant road. The man lived nearby in a broken down house. Each day he walked two miles to a neighborhood bar where he spent his time.
We didn’t usually see him traveling on the way to his daily destination. Nor did we see him when he was going home. But this day, we saw him walking home. As we watched, he staggered and stumbled, falling into the deep ditch beside the road.
For moments he was out of our sight. Then, we saw him crawling out of the ditch and struggling to his feet. Walking a few steps, he fell once more. Once more, he crawled up the side of the ditch on his hands and knees and attempted to stand.
I became aware my husband had left my side. Now, in his truck, he was driving down our driveway toward the distant road. I saw him stop at the place where the man was lying beside the ditch. Getting out of his truck, he approached the figure.
Taking him by the arm, he helped the man to his feet.
My husband later told me he intended to help the man into the cab of the truck, but he protested. “I’m not clean enough to sit in your truck. Help me into the back. I’ll ride home there.”
As this scene unfolded before my eyes, I was surely not aware it would be in my memory and my heart many years later.
How many of us, including me, would leave the comfort of our own home to help a drunken, smelly man get safely to his home?
This was a view of my husband about which I wasn’t aware. Yes, he was kind, gentle and caring. The scene I watched was more than that.
The experience changed me. Maybe it has changed you.
At this stage of life it has become clear to me, we all need to be rescued.
Our Friend is on His way.
In later years, as we discussed the incident, facts revealed themselves about the man who was rescued.
He was a veteran from World War 2.
As years have passed, we’ve become aware of the experiences our soldiers endured during that time of war.
They were too horrible to remember.
We now call it PTSD.
It has been found, for some of the veterans, it is easier to drink away the memories than to relive them in their minds.
In our village, there were three World War 2 veterans who spent their days at the same local bar. The world called them drunks. Should we call them heroes?
A large plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City
and completely disappeared.
A DAY TO REMEMBER
I wanted to feel the comfort of shared grief. “The quilters were a blessing to me.”
Let me explain…
Standing before the television, getting my last look at the news before beginning the day, I couldn’t comprehend the scene before me.
A large plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City and completely disappeared. Smoke and flames were billowing out at a point six stories from the top of the building. The remnants of the plane had not appeared on the other side. It didn’t make sense.
I knew I wasn’t watching a video or a re-run. How could this have happened?
I called to my husband who was working outside. “Come in here and look at this.”
As we stood together before the television, another large plane appeared and flew into the second tower, not emerging on the other side, causing an explosion of smoke and fire.
As the day progressed, a tower collapsed and disintegrated into the ground sending unbelievable amounts of soot and smoke racing through the narrow streets.
Hundreds were running away in an effort to escape the terrible scene.
An event, which I have never viewed, although I know it was captured by cameras, shows thousands of people jumping from the fire in the buildings to their deaths on the ground. I cannot bring myself to look at it.
It was reported that 400 police officers and fire fighters were killed while attempting to rescue as many as possible from the blazing buildings. These brave men led many to safety. They are heroes. This is America. Tragedies such as this don’t happen here.
As the day wore on, I couldn’t draw away from the sight of the events before me. I felt fear and a heavy sadness for what was happening in New York. How could anyone living in the United States of America believe this could be possible?
Thousands of people had gone to work that morning, never to return to their loved ones. How do we accept such an event except through fear, confusion and sadness.
Later, as the hours passed, a report was given that a passenger plane was down. Flight 93, had crashed and disintegrated in a field in Pennsylvania. Forty unbelievably brave passengers attempted to take over the plane. All were killed as they tried to retrieve control from the terrorists.
We remember them as heroes.
A report was given about a fourth plane with 184 passengers aboard which had flown into the Pentagon. Many were killed. The scenes before me could not be denied. It was reported Fight 93 had been destined to destroy the White House. Because of the actions of the passengers the plane had crashed into an empty field.
That night our church, which will hold 300 people, held a prayer meeting. Every available place was filled. This was the beginning of a new awareness. There are people who hate us because we exist. They hate us so much, they willingly die in order to kill as many of us in this country as possible.
I felt a strong need to reach out to people far away, wanting to feel the comfort of shared grief. How could that be accomplished? My recently developed hobby of quilting had led me to discover a program on the Internet designed for exchanging quilt materials. Choose a listed name and address, send twenty-four two-inch pieces of material in a variety of colors. They would be sown into a quilt. I should send my material to them and they in turn would send theirs to me. Along with the material, the guidelines suggested also sending a little note about myself, where I lived and briefly about my life.
I received exchanges from every state in the union including one from Israel. Eventually there were enough squares to make a full sized quilt, covering both sides with the material received. Opening each package I felt warmly connected to these women I would never meet. I felt strengthened knowing that their hands had prepared the material, which I now held in my hands. The quilters were a blessing to me.
Each message I received now resides in a folder, for remembering friends unknown.
I was sixty-six years of age. My life and thousands of others, could never be the same. We must not let the evil existing in the world change us as persons or as citizens of the United States of America. The events of September 11, 2001 have been burned into the minds of those of us who witnessed it.
To many of our youth, September 11, 2001, is only a piece of history. It may be likened to the story of the First World War, Viet Nam, or the Korean War. The difference is this happened in the United States of America in the twenty-first century. It didn’t happen under the leadership of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. It didn’t happen when Theodore Roosevelt or Harry Truman held the office of president. It happened under the administration of the forty-third president of the United States of America, George W. Bush.
To President Bush, in office for less than one year, fell the responsibility of dealing with a people who hate us. These are people who consider our very existence to be an affront to their god. It fell to our president to comfort many who were frightened and grief stricken.
This isn’t the world in which I grew to adulthood. Could I have imagined a foreign nation taking the lives of 3000 people on a fair September morning in New York city? Would I have believed I would be a witness while standing before a television in my home as it was happening?
The answer is no.
We must NEVER FORGET September 11, 2001.
The memories remain vivid on September 11, 2018. Sadness comes quickly. I WILL NOT FORGET.