"9-11" a Remembrance
Coming To America
They came by the thousands to stand silently in the cool,
September's night air. They were searching for something that they knew
not what. The very young and the very old stood side by side, heads
raised to the dais, as a cavalcade of the religious chanted on the
prayers for the dead. It was a commemorative service for the thousands
who had lost their lives in the recent terrorist attacks in Washington
D.C. and New York City.
American flags, of every size, waved from many hands or
was stitched or sewn into garments of a thousand varieties. It was an
explosion of patriotism that would have sprained the arms of even the
most ardent flag waving patriots on a hundred Fourth of July's. Brightly
painted volunteer fire apparatus, from a score of outlying towns, had
come to pay tribute to their fallen brothers. The big, silent, fire rigs
gave Niagara Square the aura of an army, in its staging grounds, on the
eve of a major battle. The mood among some was somber. Others were
hopeful, some grimly determined.
Each person present shared one thing in common. They were
Americans all. That vision in song of "amber waves of grain and "purple
mountains majesty had found expression in the plumbers, electricians,
housewives, children and scores of other "everyperson that stood around
us in the crowd. They were muted at first, overwhelmed by the throngs
and the blaring loud speakers utilized by the various officials. But
even in their confusion, spontaneous chants of "USA, "USA broke out
repeatedly. These men, women and children had come here this evening to
be reminded of who and what they are. They were seeking a reaffirmation
of national self, with a sense of urgency not felt since the dark days
of the Second World War.
Their lives had been shaken five days ago, on September the
11th. Anonymous murderers had hijacked four plane loads of passengers.
One craft crashed into the Pentagon, in Washington D.C. Two smashed
into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A
fourth plane had crashed into a field, outside of Pittsburg, reason
unknown.The resulting collapse of the twin trade towers, and the carnage
at the Pentagon, had shaken the nation with a level of intensity unknown
since the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, that precipitated our
involvement in WW II.
The unique and macabre synchronicity, of the televised
attacks and resulting destruction and loss of life, coupled with the
eerie cell phone testimonies of loved ones at the moment of their death,
had shaken us in a manner and at a level that we were not prepared for.
The murderers had struck within the borders of the continental United
States. Many thousand of us had lost friends, family and acquaintances
or knew others who had. Many more thousands had narrowly escaped the
same fate by luck or circumstance. It was a psychological blow, of
enormous impact, that had momentarily stunned the nation.
And now, these men and women stood here, in Niagara Square,
Buffalo N.Y., and searched for what they thought they were, Americans.
The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the military personnel
who spoke, valiant defenders of the very flags that we waved. It was
they whom we wished to place our trust in. They are the living
reminders to us of the Marines at Tarawa, The Continental Army at Bunker
Hill, The Navy in the Coral Sea, and the Air Force in Dessert Storm,
Iraq. These have always been America's heroes in times of great trouble.
What we wanted from them, was an assurance that everything would "be all
We sang the "Star Spangled Banner, "America the Beautiful
and waved our flags in an effort to remind us that, despite the loss of
life and the many hardships that will surely follow, this is still the
land of the free and the home of the brave.
And as the multiple thousands left the rally for their homes,
many felt lighter in their hearts. For though financially battered and emotionally disrupted, this is a land that has withstood the evils and the injustices of a
hundred such tyrants in our short history. We have triumphed over all of
them. Not for nothing did the television cameras focus on the Statue of
Liberty, in New York Harbor, during the initial attack. She was and is a
symbol of who and what we are to the world. And in many of our hearts,
the notion crystallized in an old street aphorism of my youth. "Payback
is gonna be a bitch.
Joseph Xavier Martin