Let Us Not Forget

Let Us Not Forget

All of us in this room can probably share where they were on 9/11, a day that changed America. It was the day when I began to realize that the big bad wolf was here. Until then? I lived in my fantasy world of thinking that my country, my military, my life was safe from terrorism. Yet, terrorism is something that has come to me and left lasting scars.

On 9/1l, I was try–away from home–at a Youth Programs training in OH. I got up to use the restroom and when I saw a bunch of people around a small television screen in a small office, I made a joke about how nice it was to be able to check out the news during the day. Nobody said a word. They turned and separated just enough that I could see the first plane crashing into the Twin Towers. As I was processing what that meant and what was going on, the second plane hit. My rose colored glasses and paradigms shifted that day.

That day surely impacted my family. I had a husband who had been in the military for 15 years at that point and 5 children ranging from 8-18. At this point let me digress for a moment and tell you about my Phil–the man who taught me to love my country.

He came to the United States from Venezuela at the age of 12. He had been raised in a French home in a Spanish country. He knew two words of English–sumateamus for sometimes and ewes for USA. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Air Force to get his American citizenship. He spent 16 years enlisted, 10 as an officer.

He was an Air Force Academy professor who had finished his PhD five days earlier when he volunteered to go to Afghanistan believing that through education, service, and help, that countries can change. He knew 10 languages and was working the communications to set up the French clinic when he was assassinated by someone he should have been able to trust and by someone he considered an ally and friend. My Phil had time to see the face of evil. Time to feel fear and time to feel pain.

If he were alive, however, he would be here telling all of us not to grow weary standing for our country, believing in the good of humanity, and he would proudly don the uniform that made him an American. It was a choice for him and a calling. 4 of our children are following the same calling–to make the world a little safer through the wearing of the uniform.

I did mention that terrorism had hit me three times. The third time was at the Boston Marathon. A marathon. A safe place. I was running to remember and honor the sacrifice of Phil’s life. I was one stoplight from the finish line when the first boom hit. While I was processing what that boom, those smells, and that cloud meant, the second boom hit. At that point, the world exploded around me. I ran for my life. I found myself cowering in a Dunkin Donuts shop about a half mile away. Those scars, the scars from Phil’s death, the scars from 9/11 are my nightmares, but with each scar has come a strong steely resolve. I cannot let terrorism take any more from me. I choose life. I choose to fight for happiness and more than that, I choose to love my country through the many ups and downs.

As we pause to remember the lives given on 9/11 and the lives given through military service in a post 9/11 world, I urge all of us to remember what makes this country great and why we should honor the people who gave everything there was to give. I challenge you to look at our country–you country–and proudly stand together. In the unity and in the acceptance of people–all people, terrorism is defeated. My choice is to live a life worthy of those who gave theirs for me.

Thank you.

 

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