I had the occasion to ask my Grandma about her reaction to the 9/11 tragedy in Manhattan and the fields of Pennsylvania, & Washington DC. She had lived through many American tragedies during her life, so I wanted to ask her how this compared to events such as Pearl Harbor, D-day, Kennedy's assassination, and Reagan's attempted assassination.
Just in asking folks what they consider Great American tragedies over the last one hundred years, most of them say 9/11 as their first response, but we also remember Hurricane Katerina, BP oil spill, and the Val dis oil spill, Mt St Helen eruption, plane crashes, wild fires spreading 1000 of acres, the sinking of the Titanic, and one tragedy close to home, the collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis MN.
My grandmother lived through all of these events, but never once doubted the survival, or for that matter the continued success of the nation.
I know for myself, I wondered what was going to happen when President Reagan was shot. What did that mean for us as a Nation? Could we go on from here? It turns out this was nothing new to the country, but for me it was. I was in junior high at the time. School was released early. I remember that, but it turned out that as a whole the country was no worse for wear. Reagan returned to his role, the criminal was sentenced, and some other topic took over the front page of our nation's newspapers.
I visited my grandma about a month after 9/11/2001. She said this event seemed so much closer to home. Why, I asked. She said mainly because it happened right before our eyes on the television. It made it seem so real, so right out our back door when the television was showing each event as it happened. Pearl Harbor happened on the radio, half the world away. The news was delayed. It took a few days to really now what happened, and it was only words on the radio.
Interesting enough, to my mother WWII was part of her youth, she remembers going door to door to gather items for war relief. Everyone took part in gathering the needed items for the war, whereas at home items were rationed like sugar and flour. In my opinion we don't seem to share in the pains of war like we did during the world wars. That is good in one respect that our country is more prepared for crisis, and bad in another that the cruelty of war is somehow overshadowed.
In honor of the men and women for centuries who have defended freedom in this country I salute you. It is because of so many sacrifices that I may express myself so freely here, and I am humbled. I am humbled by you and by the women and men who have paved this path I walk before me. How can I not value life in the USA when it has been fought for so passionately?