It’s hard to believe it has been two decades since the most horrifying attack on American soil. The only event comparable to Sept. 1, 2001, was the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both events left a huge scar on the American psyche and created a storm of rage and fear. It also created a wave of brave volunteers who stepped up to protect our country. Military recruiters were swamped.
I truly believe that every citizen is only four links away from the impact of each event. Several years ago, when I first joined Kiwanis, one of the men in the club had been at Pearl Harbor that fateful day. He refused to speak of the experience, but I know he helped retrieve bodies from the water; many burnt beyond recognition. Other former servicemen also refused to talk about their experiences in the conflict, the horrors being too terrible to relive.
Some perished immediately in each of the attacks. I still think about my friend who was in the restaurant on the top floor of one of the Twin Towers when those airplanes slammed into them. Just thinking about how terrible those last few minutes had to be for so many people make me dizzy, and sick to my stomach. So much potential lost.
My friend had just graduated with her Master’s degree — she wanted to counsel children who had been traumatized. She would have been brilliant at this, having experienced so much during her own time in the foster care system. Potential lost.
Then there are the photos of people leaping to their death from a tower which was in flames; they chose to rush into the jaws of the unknown on their own terms instead of waiting a gruesome and inevitable end. The bravery of the first responders who stepped up to rescue, provide aid and eventually recover remains and evidence at their own peril remains profound. These jobs were so physically and emotionally demanding and gruesome that even the search and rescue animals showed signs of stress and depression.
Hundreds of families had to deal with the literal disappearance of loved ones. The fires fed by jet fuel created a fiery hell, which consumed every bit of the life trapped within. Nothing, not even a tooth has ever been recovered of my friend. The lack of remains makes closure difficult to embrace.
Brave men and women tied to our small communities fought to protect country and kin. They faced horrors on the battlefield and dealt with the devastating ugliness of battling an enemy who had no compunction about using children as walking bombs, who considered women the spoils of war and were willing to execute every male, regardless of age and ability just because they could.
It’s well known within the military community that the chemical fires in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan caused several types of cancer. A young man who I knew passed away last year from complications from the lung damage he incurred while serving. More potential wasted as a result of a scorched Earth policy from the enemy.
My cousins and brother were both in the military, they don’t talk about their experiences due to the ranks they held and the confidential information they were privy to, but I do know they were included in briefings which had to leave each with nightmares.
I just hope that on the eve of this anniversary, our current elected leaders reflect on what is occurring and start to actually stand up for our ideals and citizenry, instead of delivering yet another reason for celebration to a group so vile and unwilling to recognize the value of human life.
It is the least they could do.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.