September 10, 2009

Returning September 11th

As most folks do, I remember where I was when I heard the news back in September 2001. I was in our Utica office, to do some training and observations. I had some down time and was trying to locate a phone number for someone in our Rochester office, but couldn’t get logged into my computer, so I reached out to a coworker in the CNY office for help. The friend I called has an irreverent streak a mile wide, and a great sense of humor, so when she told me we were under attack, I assumed she was talking about at work, by her boss, or by someone in her training class having a bad day. It didn’t occur to me that we had been attacked by terrorists.

With disbelief, I headed off to the cafeteria to check the news, and had only been watching for a couple of minutes when the first tower collapsed. Shocked, stunned, amazed, and horrified are but a few of the emotions I felt in that instant. I remember one of the Utica employees had a family member who worked at the WTC, and her friends were distraught with the not knowing, something that was repeated hundres of times over that day. For all of us, even those who didn’t lose someone, something was lost that day.

And now, tomorrow as we have every year since 2001, we’ll be reminded of a horrible day in our country’s history, through the moments of silence, prayer vigils, candlelight ceremonies, and other methods of remembrance for the anniversary. Interviews with survivors, photos of those lost, or pictures of the now emptier New York skyline, the burning Pentagon, or the field where the last plane went down are likely to fill the papers and TV news.

Sadly, September 11th will always be known as a dark day, with only a glimmer of our American spirit showing through, in the rushing of the hijackers of flight 93. But here’s the thing – while we certainly should not forget what happened in 2001, that’s not the ONLY thing that happened on that day, and it’s not all bad. Here’s just a brief list of things that can be celebrated, treasured, remembered, discussed, or in some way recognized on September 11th. There’s no real rhyme or reason for what made the list, it’s just things I found interesting after noodling around on the Web, with some added commentary.

  • 1297 Scots, led by William Wallace defeat the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, proving that real men do wear kilts.
  • 1773 Benjamin Franklin writes "There never was a good war or bad peace."
  • 1792 The Hope Diamond is stolen along with other crown jewels when six men broke into the house used to store the jewels. Apparently Ted Nugent was not home that day – he woulda shot the bastards!
  • 1814 The Americans defeated the British at the Battle of Lake Champlain; remarkably, this is the quadricentennial year for Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.
  • 1847 Stephen Foster's Oh! Susanna, is first performed at a saloon in Pittsburgh. It’s been performed at a saloon somewhere every day since then.
  • 1918 My Boston Red Sox won the World Series, beginning a drought that would sadly last until 2004.
  • 1940 Buckingham Palace was damaged during a German air raid.
  • 1941 Ground was broken for the construction of The Pentagon.
  • 1944 The first allied troops of the U.S. Army cross the western border of Nazi Germany.
  • 1946 The first mobile long-distance car-to-car telephone conversation was held. My guess is some guy got lost and refused to ask for directions, so his wife picked up the phone and called someone.
  • 1950 The Dick Tracy TV show sparks uproar concerning violence. Imagine that…
  • 1954 The first Miss America TV broadcast. The winner was all natural.
  • 1962 The Beatles cut "Love Me Do" and "PS I Love You" and I still love them.
  • 1965 The 1st Cavalry Division of the United States Army arrives in Vietnam; not our proudest moment.
  • 1970 The Ford Pinto is introduced. I actually learned to drive in our red Pinto hatchback. That may be why I never got my license...
  • 1972 The Closing Ceremony of the Munich Olympics takes place. It was the Summer Olympics when the terrorist attack known as the Munich Massacre happened.
  • 1985 Cincinnati’s Pete Rose got his 4,192nd career base hit, breaking Ty Cobb's record which stood for over 60 years. He had bet he’d get the hit the day before, so he didn’t make any money.
  • 1987 Dan Rather walked off the set of the CBS Evening News in a petulant snit over being interrupted and postponed by a sports program, leaving six minutes of dead air. This set the stage for today’s fair and balanced television news.
  • 1989 The iron curtain opened between the communist Hungary and Austria. From Hungary thousands of East Germans throng to Austria and West Germany.
  • 1997 NASA's Mars Global Surveyor reaches Mars. This was only possible because someone made sure they had directions before they left the house.
  • 1998 Independent counsel Kenneth Starr sent a report to the U.S. Congress accusing President Bill Clinton of 11 possible impeachable offenses. In most countries, having sex is not an impeachable offense.
  • 1999 Tennis: Serena Williams won the U.S. Open, becoming the first African American woman since Althea Gibson to win a Grand Slam tournament since Althea Gibson in 1958.
  • 2002 The Pentagon is rededicated after repairs are completed, exactly one year after the attack on the building.
September 11th is more than just the 9/11 attacks and all of the things I’ve listed above. It’s someone’s anniversary, it’s the day someone lost their first tooth or had their first kiss. Tom Landry, the legendary coach of ‘America’s Team’, the Dallas Cowboys; Brian DePalma, who directed classic films such as Carrie, Body Double, Scarface and countless others; DH Lawrence, of Lady Chatterly’s Lover fame; and my friend Jason Greenley share this birthday with tens of thousands of others, and most of them, like Jay, would like to be able to celebrate their birthdays again, without feeling guilty or being accused of being disrespectful.

Let’s return September 11th to them, and to everyone else who should be allowed to remember this day for something other than a tragedy.