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Let's Roll
by Amy Kenneley

We will always remember where we where when we first heard about the planes. Each of us will remember the first horrible pictures, the confusion we felt, the deep anger.

We were glued to any news broadcast, even though the same words kept repeating and repeating, the same pictures showing over and over seared into our brains.

When we could stand no more, we turned off the television. But we couldn't stand that either, and back we went again to see if there had been an update.

Two massive towers were in ruins, twisted shards smoldering over the Manhattan skyline. The Big Apple was diminished.

The Pentagon was on fire. The Pentagon! Our national defense posture resided in that five-sided monolith, but it had an Achilles' heel that day where a plane penetrated.

On a field in rural Pennsylvania, a plane was buried, only the puff of cloud to tell where it had impacted. Only the afterwords of one passenger, speaking for all: "Let's Roll!"

Dust and ashes rose over our nation, the dust of our national pride, and the ashes of fellow Americans, and international visitors and businesspeople. Would there be more terror to come? A nation held its collective breath and waited.

As we waited, fear crept in, a pervasive fear of being vulnerable-again. For the younger generation it would be a new experience, feeling vulnerable. They have been used to a macho America, first on the global scene, democratic lighthouse of the world, space explorer and nuclear power.

Those of us a little older know that there have been times when our country has been very vulnerable. We had two oceans between us and the rest of the world on December 7, 1941. We had 90 miles between the Florida coast and Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. Our geographical margin of safety was shrinking.

A generation grew up with nuclear missiles poised for launching. Who would push the button first? Who would make the Cold War into a Hot War? But the missiles didn't come and war went other places.

Even when we were the most scared, did we truly, truly believe such terror could ever happen on our own soil? The movies, the books, the pundits and the "talking heads" scared us with visions of a decimated America, an America smoldering in radiation, reduced to rubble.

"On The Beach" scared us, and "Planet of the Apes" humbled us. But didn't we still believe we were invulnerable? Our country was spending billions for defense...weren't we the best protected people in the world?

September Eleventh changed how we think about ourselves. We are vulnerable. We are targets. The ashes of thousands of humans tell us that. We have been warned. We have been given our wake-up call.

It's been a long year. As the time approaches when we commemorate this tragic day, there will be a million ways each one of us will remember.

We will look at the empty space where the twin towers stood, watch a ceremony on television, listen to massed choirs singing, or speeches being given.

We will hear bells ringing. We will place a wreath on a field in Pennsylvania. We will raise a flag over the Pentagon, or hang our own flag from our front porch. We will go to our place of worship and pray. We will sit at a ball game, have a beer, fix our car, peel potatoes for dinner.

A year has passed, and we are going on. And that is good. Those who lost loved ones and friends on that tragic day have also gone on with life. A terrible ache remains for them, and it will not be an easy thing, but moving forward is the only way they-- and we-- can go.

Never forgetting, but moving onwards-that's the way of life, isn't it...the American way.

Or as one American put it: "Let's Roll!"

Blessings to all, Amy Kenneley


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