Today, like many days, I got my kid off to his early morning workout before school, made coffee, watched some news, paid bills and headed out to do a little yard work. I began humming “I’m just an ordinary, average guy … du du du du dup, du du du du da.” Joe Walsh’s lyrics danced in my otherwise empty head as I walked behind the lawn mower, and then I hit a wall of realization: how fortunate I am to have an ordinary, average life when 14 years ago I felt that anything ordinary had been blown up.
9/11 is my generation’s Pearl Harbor. We all can relay exactly where we were, what we had on, what the weather was like and who we clung to that morning. We all watched in horror as live TV showed the burning towers, first one and then the next crashing down, and people covered in ash running down the streets, sirens wailing in the background. More planes were involved. The Pentagon hit. Horrifying.
My son was a toddler. I looked at his beautiful face and thought, his life will be so different. We were under attack. We didn’t know what else was coming. I stayed home from my job in Denver that morning, because I thought maybe all tall buildings were targets. We didn’t know. Our world was rocked and forever changed that day.
Our leaders did the best they could in the face of this ghostly evil. Be strong. Never forget. We will not be shaken. Here are some of the words from President Bush’s speech that evening:
Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.
Whether you agree or disagree with his policies, decisions or actions, President Bush said what we needed to hear. He also foretold our country’s return to normal. Perhaps it is a new normal, but today we Americans live our daily lives in relative peace and we are not looking over our shoulders every minute. Thank God for those who stepped up and lead our country, and for those who sacrificed and who continue to sacrifice every day for us to live our ordinary lives.
We cannot become complacent. Our world continues to generate hate and terrorism is not defeated. Back here in our ordinary lives, it’s so easy to focus on the ups and downs of our economy, China’s economic stupidity, el nino weather patterns and the cost of cable. We are numbed by cat videos and clever quips on Facebook and Instagram. Our dogs need to live mindfully and our pics are #nofilter.
Stay awake, people. Appreciate your everydays, your normals, your averagenesses. But also pay attention to what’s going on in the world. Evaluate carefully just who you trust to lead our country. Are they focused and can they lead with strength and make decisions thoughtfully? Or are they under the dulling influence of mainstream hot topics and polls. Say anything or say the right thing? Be aware. Ask questions. Read the entire article and not just the headline. Talk about what matters with your kids.
Finally, let us never forget what it is to have the foundations of our lives rocked, and let us find compassion for those who face terror and uncertainty every day. I cannot fathom living in a war zone. Millions in Syria have lost their ordinary lives. They look at their children, like I did 14 years ago, and fear for their future. Some decide to flee their homes to give their toddlers an opportunity to live a normal life. Some decide to stay and face the unfolding horror. I pray that they will find peace soon.
I’m heading back out to finish mowing the lawn. I’ll be going to the store later for groceries and then up to a friend’s for an “Oh wow, our kids are graduating this year” party. An ordinary, average day. Never forget.