11 September 2006

Never forget

I had a lot of dead time at work today. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have spent it watching CNN and Fox News and reading 9/11 remembrances.

But we need to be reminded of why we fight.

I've been thinking about the United 93 film a lot lately, and remembering how powerful it was. There are several visual images that linger, like the hitchhiker, somber and dark, pausing for a moment in front of a garish advertisement.

But what I remember most about that film is the moment when I rose to leave, my path illuminated by the light of the credits, silence resounding in my ears, and turned to see three freshmen cadets similarly departing. The third lingered half a second behind his companions, furtively ducking his head to wipe his eyes roughly with his sleeve, and it struck me that he would have been just fourteen on that day.

I'm appalled to think back on how little 9/11 affected me at the time. I could not grasp the enormity of what had occurred, and it was not until several years later that I fully understood the atrocity that had been committed, and the nature of our enemy. I didn't even watch the news reports as events unfolded.

But what of this cadet? I imagine him sitting in social studies or algebra, laughing and joking with his friends, casting the occasional glance at a pretty girl across the way; until, by some osmosis, the news spreads through the classroom, and the teacher switches on the television. What did he think when he watched the reports, saw the towers fall, heard the wailing of alarms? Had he ever heard of bin Laden or al-Qaeda? Did those moments of horror immediately force the same painful clarity I took years to attain upon him?

He was just fourteen. He spent his high school years knowing - knowing - that our enemy is fully prepared to slaughter every one of us. What shadow must that knowledge have cast over the last of his childhood?

The vast majority of A&M's cadets have committed to serve after graduation. I am sure that for many of them, the memory of sitting frozen in horror on that bright September morning played a significant role in that decision. To them, and to all the other men and women who defend freedom:

Thank you.


Blogger Muslihoon said...

A wonderful tribute. Thank you. And I second your thanks to our brave men and women in the Armed Forces.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous geoff said...

Very nice, Mrs. P. And add my thanks to our defenders.

1:32 AM  
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2:32 PM  

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