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Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

Protecting America’s Children

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

Sandy Hook victims

The sky was a flawless shade of blue on the morning of 9/11/01 in New York City, and everything was right with the world.  At 8:46am, everyone believed that a tragic accident had occurred with a small plane hitting the Twin Towers.  By 9:03am, when the second plane hit the towers, we all knew that wasn’t the case.  Instantly, the America that we once knew was gone.  From that moment on, every American had no choice but to accept the realization that terrorist attacks can happen on American soil.

We failed as a nation to protect innocent citizens on that day.  Shortly thereafter, we beefed up national security, and to date, we have not suffered any casualties from terrorist attacks on American soil.

Since 9/11/01 there have been over twenty school shootings, and yet, we have still not stepped up as a nation to address this problem.

We have successfully thwarted terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists on U.S. soil, but as a nation, we are failing to protect our most precious resource…the children of America!

There are many issues that need addressing if we are going to stop the terrorism that we are experiencing in schools, but one issue is paramount.

Should we ban assault rifles for private citizens?  It would be a good start, but it is not a cure-all.

Should we provide more help to people with mental illnesses?  Absolutely.  But again, not a cure-all.

What if we allowed prayer in schools?  It may make a lot of people feel better, but it will not stop a maniacal gunman from shooting up a school.

All of these issues should be addressed, but there is one step that should be taken immediately to keep our children safe in school.

The time has come for America to beef up security in our schools the way that we did immediately after the 9/11 attacks.  The terrorists that have succeeded in carrying out their missions over the past 11 years are not Muslim extremists; they are young, disturbed, heavily armed, white males who share the same disregard for human life as the terrorists who attacked our country on 9/11.  They have been able to carry out their missions against innocent, defenseless targets with little to no resistance, and we simply cannot sit idly by and hope that this won’t happen again.  We have to proactively stop it from happening.

Unfortunately, we must fight fire with fire, and that does not mean arming teachers and principals as some have suggested.  A teacher’s job is challenging enough without having to add the responsibility of becoming an expert marksman to the list.  However, the country is filled with people who can handle the job, trained policeman and military veterans to name a few.

On 9/11/01, we learned a valuable lesson about our nation’s security vulnerabilities.  Since that time, we have had multiple school shootings, but we still have not learned our lesson.   We shake our heads in disbelief when there is a shooting at a high school.  We are sad for the families who suffer losses and we pray that it never happens in our local high school.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School has shaken the nation to its core.  Because the victims were so young and innocent, we cannot fathom how anyone can look into a terrified child’s eyes and pull the trigger without hesitation.  In many ways, this unspeakable tragedy is as bad as what happened on 9/11/01.  In some ways, it is worse.

On 12/14/12, in a tightknit rural community in Connecticut, the last bit of innocence that we had left in America was mercilessly taken away from us all in one fell swoop.  We MUST do whatever it takes to make sure that a tragedy like this never happens again!

Nothing that we do going forward will bring back the innocent victims whose lives ended way too soon.  The families that they left behind will never be the same, and no amount of time that passes will ever help to fill the void created by their passing.

The best that we can all hope for at this point is for this tragedy to serve as a wake-up call to America to do what is necessary to protect our children.

 

Please click here to learn more about each Sandy Hook Elementary School victim (slideshow in the middle of the page).

 

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9/11 – Always Remember and Never Forget: A Nation United

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life, Life Lessons on September 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

When the second tower was hit on 9/11/01, every citizen of the United States was affected. At that moment, our age of innocence was gone, replaced by an everlasting threat of terrorism. And though we have since eliminated Bin Laden and many other terrorist leaders, the fact remains that we are not immune to future attacks.

Having personally experienced 9/11 from a very close vantage point (My 9/11 Experience), my perspective may be different than that of other people. But there is one thing that cannot be disputed…we were never closer as a nation than we were in the days, weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks. During that time period, we weren’t defined by our politics, our religion, our race or any other factor that has contributed to the divisive nation that we are living in now.

We were simply Americans!

Though tragic beyond words, the 9/11 attacks, in my opinion, made us all better Americans. It saddens me that it took a tragedy of epic proportions to strengthen our bond, and saddens me even more that the passage of time has allowed those bonds to be shattered because we cannot agree upon what is best for the country going forward.

Perhaps the divide was always greater than I realized, but it wasn’t as apparent before the 24/7 news cycle became so prevalent, and virtual soapboxes became so easily accessible through the use of social media.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we throw around phrases like “Always Remember” and“Never Forget” as our way of honoring the innocent people who lost their lives on that tragic day 11 years ago. Our appreciation for the heroes of 9/11 comes to the forefront, as does our military pride. We fly the American flag proudly, albeit at half-mast, to show just how patriotic we are. But with less than two months to go until the presidential election, the red and blue colors on the flag are more representative of our differences than our similarities.

Barring any vote-counting controversy, we will know who our President is going to be no later than November 7th. On that day many Americans will celebrate, while many others share in their disappointment. Some Americans will be disenchanted no matter who wins the election, while others who have given up hope will just continue to live their lives the best that they can.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we “always remember” to grieve for the innocent Americans who lost their lives, and for their families as well.

On the anniversary of 9/11, we “never forget” that many other military lives have been lost in the wars that we have fought since that day to defend our freedom.

Imagine what America would be like if we “always remembered” the bonds that were formed in the wake of 9/11.

Imagine what America would be like if we “never forgot” that there are people suffering to this day from 9/11 and its aftermath.

Imagine what America would be like if we “always remembered” that we are all Americans, regardless of who we vote for in this election.

Imagine what America would be like if we “never forgot” that a nation united is much stronger than a nation divided.

On this, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I reflect on my memories of that day as I have for the past 10 years, while hoping that we can find a way to bind together once again as a nation because it is the right thing to do, and not because we have suffered yet another unspeakable tragedy.

My 9/11 Experience…

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on May 3, 2011 at 7:30 am

I didn’t personally lose any loved ones on 9/11, but it did have an effect on me because I was as close as you can get to it without actually being a part of it.

For those of you around the country that watched this all unfold as if it were a tragic movie, trust me, it was more real that any of us would like to believe.

At the time of this tragedy, I was living in Jersey City, NJ in a condo on the water. The view from my balcony was the Twin Towers. In fact, I could even sit on my couch and see the towers hovering above the whole city. Below is a recap of what the day was like for me, and the aftermath, which changed my life forever.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Around 8:50am, I got in the shower to get ready for work. I worked in the music industry at the time, so my hours were later than most commuters. While in the shower the phone kept ringing. I knew that it was probably my wife who was already at work in lower Manhattan. Usually she would just leave me a message for me to call her, but this time she kept calling and calling.

When I answered the phone, I said “Why do you keep calling, why didn’t you just leave me a message and wait for me to call back?” She replied, “Look out the window.” I stepped out onto my balcony to take a look and was shocked to see a hole in one of the Towers. We spoke for a little while and we both thought, as others did, that a small plane probably hit the tower. It didn’t look good, but at the time, we had no idea of what was to follow.

We hung up the phone, and I continued to get ready for work, not realizing that the Path Train that I was planning on taking had already been stopped, as it ran directly under the World Trade Center. I watched the news from a vantage point that allowed me to see the TV and the Towers at the same time.

On TV, I saw the 2nd Tower get hit live. I immediately called my wife (whose office was about 10 blocks away) and told her to get home now. She asked why. I told her that terrorists were attacking NYC. Not realizing the gravity of the situation, or maybe overwhelmed by shock, she responded, “but it’s not my building.” At that time, she and other co-workers were watching the events out of their office windows. I said to her “Just leave. Quit your fucking job if you have to, but get home now!” Fortunately, she was the first one out of her office. Others that waited ended up covered in soot and had to be hosed off when reaching their destination. To this day no one knows what health effects these people may suffer down the road as a result of the exposure.

My wife got to the ferry which took her directly back to our condo complex. Normally, it was a 10-minute ride, and ran basically every 10 minutes during rush hour. She should have been home no later than 9:30am. However, the ferry was packed, and they were told to move much slower than usual to avoid creating underwater currents that could contribute to the possible structural problems that the Towers were facing. By my wife’s recollection, there were papers and debris flying all over the docks, which were about a half mile away. I kept trying to call her on her cell phone, but all lines were busy and remained that way for most of the day. I had the helpless feeling of just waiting for her arrival.

Sitting in shock on the couch, watching the towers burn at a little after 10am, I felt a rumble (like a small earthquake) and then Tower 1 collapsed. With only the Hudson River separating my condo from the Towers, there was nothing to block the tremors that were felt when the tower collapsed. When Tower 1 went down, and my wife was still not home, and unable to be reached by cell phone, I feared the worst and lost it. Already in a terrible state-of-mind after suddenly losing my father less than 2 months earlier, I thought that my world had ended. Fortunately, my wife walked in a few minutes after Tower 1 went down and explained what had happened, and why it took so long to get home.

Along with all of our neighbors, we both sat and watched in shock and horror as Tower 2 went down right before our eyes. Words can’t describe the feelings we had. After all, one of the appeals of this condo was the view of the Towers, and now it was gone, replaced by a cloud of smoke that would hover literally for months, with a burning smell that cannot be described by words. During this time, we couldn’t open our windows because the smell would be in our home.

To make matters worse, our condo complex was also a ferry destination. Most of the people that took the ferry worked in lower Manhattan, and the cars were parked outside the gate of our community all day long. When September 12th came, there were still a number of cars sitting parked outside of the gate. The only cars to park there were commuters, as nothing else was close by. These cars were a constant reminder of those that didn’t make it out of the Towers. Slowly over the following months, the cars started to disappear, but it took a long time before the final car was picked up by a loved one.

After returning to work a few days later, the Empire State Building was evacuated due to a terror threat. I left my office, along with many others, and my wife did the same. It took hours to get home as there was a mad rush out of NYC. When we got home, I told my wife that we had to get out of town for a while, or I was going to lose it. It was all too much to take. The pain of my father’s passing was only made worse by the cloud of smoke, the constant burning smell, the cars that still lingered outside of our community and the terror threats still coming. We retreated to upstate NY to visit her parents for a few days. A place that is usually a little too slow-paced for me (not much to do in this small upstate town) became a temporary haven, as I was finally able to get away from the chaos and into a peaceful place. The sights and sounds, and even the smell of the country air provided us with a great respite from the turmoil that we were living through.

After 9/11, there was a truly eerie silence blanketing NYC. A cloud of shock and despair hung over our grieving city. Suddenly, New Yorkers that were always in a rush and usually fairly impatient with each other, became quiet and polite. Horns weren’t honking at each street corner. Hopefully, most of you can’t relate to this, but it had a feeling similar to that of a high school after a student dies. It’s a silence, a mood, that is so thick that you feel like you can touch it, or cut it with a knife. It was so surreal, and it lasted for about 3-4 weeks, and seemed to end overnight. The process of getting back to “normal” was not at all gradual. It seemed that there was a grieving process and then it was time for New Yorkers to be New Yorkers (for better or worse).

I kept commuting to NYC, but hated being there. I had always been interested in real estate, so I started reading self-help books and real estate books to make the commute more tolerable. I was in the sales profession for years before becoming a real estate agent, but always resisted it because I didn’t want to work weekends. When I finally made the decision, it was the best one that I could have ever made. I wish that I had done it sooner, but I guess it just wasn’t the right time. Ultimately, that day may have actually sped up my entry into the real estate profession.

Although there have been good times and bad times as a real estate agent, the flexibility has allowed me to spend a lot of quality time with my family. After 9/11, and my father’s sudden passing, I realize that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Life is far too short and fragile to be spending it commuting on a train to jobs that I didn’t find fulfilling.

As Americans, this day should have had a tremendous impact on us all. It should truly be a day of remembrance and a national holiday, but unfortunately, people would eventually use it as a chance for a barbecue or getaway so it’s better not to declare it a holiday. For those of us that were touched by this tragedy directly by losing a loved one or friend or even surviving, but being close to the action, this day will never be about “business as usual.”

ALWAYS REMEMBER…AND DON’T EVER FORGET:

The Victims of September 11, 2001

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/memorial/lists/by-name/index.html

The above website lists all of the victims of 9/11, each one featuring a profile about the person and a place for comments by friends and loved ones. It’s more than a list of names, which may be hard to relate to. It’s a list of people, people that were parents, people that were someone’s child, people that had friends and careers and lived until their lives were taken from them by evil cowards that deserve to suffer until the end of time. Please take a moment and read about some of these people. If you never felt connected to the situation, you will now.

ALWAYS REMEMBER…AND DON’T EVER FORGET…

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Putting Myself in Their Place

In Family on August 16, 2010 at 4:46 pm

The anniversary of 9/11 will be here again in less than a month.  So much has changed in the last nine years, and yet the pain of that tragic day still lingers in the hearts and minds of America.  As this anniversary approaches, a debate rages on as to whether or not an enormous mosque should be built just blocks from Ground Zero.  The decision should not come down to the constitutional right to do so, nor should it come down to yet another case of political posturing.  For once, it would be nice to see common sense and human decency come to the forefront when a decision as important as this one is being made.

Bleeding-heart liberals will likely fight for the right to build the mosque, while right-wing Republicans will oppose it.  The truth of the matter is that both extremes usually have their mind made up long before specific facts come into play.  Those that find themselves more towards the middle are usually the ones that end up taking the time to learn about both sides before rendering an opinion.  As an Independent, it would seem that this would be one of those times that I would need to do research before offering my opinion, but this case is different because of my circumstances.

Less than two months before 9/11, I lost my father very unexpectedly.  He was relatively young and in good health (much like many of the people who lost their lives in 9/11).  On a beautiful summer Sunday in 2001, my parents decided to spend the day in Central Park.  My mother sat and read a book while my father rollerbladed around the park.  Overall, a pretty typical day for them.  Until my father somehow lost his balance and fell on his head.  There were no witnesses, so we don’t really know exactly what happened.  Even if we did know what happened, it wouldn’t have changed anything.  The head injury that my father sustained was so severe that he lost his battle for life after five days of being in a coma.

For a long time after my father’s passing, the sight of someone on rollerblades made me both sad and angry.  I wondered why my father was the one to fall, get injured and die.  I wondered why others who were far more reckless on rollerblades were still alive and skating as though they didn’t have a care in the world.  To this day, over nine years later, I still think of my father whenever I see someone rollerblading without a helmet and wonder why they are so careless (even though I never once wore a helmet when we used to go together).  I can’t remember the exact date, but I do know that the last time that I ever put on rollerblades was sometime in the summer of 2001.

My father’s fall took place in Central Park.  And though the park had nothing to do with what happened, I still couldn’t bring myself to return to the place where my father basically lost his life.  It took many years before I could even drive through the park, and if not for my kids wanting to go to a playground when we were visiting Manhattan, I’m not sure that I would have ever gone into the park again.

Is it logical for me to still get sad and angry when I see people rollerblading more than nine years after my father’s accident?  Not at all.  Is it logical for me to never want to return to Central Park because it is where my father’s accident took place?  Not at all.  But logic doesn’t always prevail, especially when strong emotions come into play.  Sometimes, the heart rules the mind, and there is very little that can be done to overcome it.

If Central Park were my father’s final resting place, I would have no choice but to go and visit him there.  But luckily for me, it is not his final resting place.  After my father’s passing, I was in a downward spiral.  Life was just not the same as it was before his accident.  There were no silver linings in sight.  It took another horrific tragedy for me to find a silver lining in the way that I lost my dad…9/11!

As Americans, we all experienced 9/11 in one way or another.  I was fortunate not to have lost anyone close to me on that tragic day, but others were not so lucky.  In the years following 9/11, I found out by watching the anniversary coverage and doing some research that friends of mine did lose people very close to them.   Even before I knew about this, 9/11 hit me very hard, as I witnessed it first-hand from my balcony in Jersey City overlooking the Twin Towers.  As sad as I was about losing my father, I was comforted by the fact that I got to say goodbye to him (although he was unable to reciprocate).  I was grateful that we were able to give my father a “proper burial” (a thought that never entered my mind before 9/11).

Human life is fragile.  We all know it, but sometimes it takes the stark reality of a tragedy to remind us of just how fragile it is.  In the back of our minds, we all know that none of us is promised tomorrow (much less years) but we go about our days without dwelling on our eventual demise.  At the very least, we take solace in the fact that we will have a final resting place where the loved ones that we leave behind can come and visit us.  But for the victims of 9/11…that is not the case.

Unfortunately for many of the families of 9/11 victims, Ground Zero is the final resting place for their loved ones.  I can’t even imagine the pain that these families must feel from the lack of closure, and having no choice but to visit their loved ones in a very impersonal burial ground that is shared by thousands of people.

I know first-hand how painful it is to be reminded of the reason that my father lost his life every time that I see someone rollerblading.  To this day, I find myself looking away at times as I watch television shows or movies that use Central Park as the backdrop.   While it is a reality that I must live with, it is not one that I willingly chose for myself; just as the families of 9/11 victims didn’t choose to have Ground Zero be the final resting place for their loved ones.

Most reasonable people realize that there are good and bad people in every religion.  And though anti-Muslim sentiment in America was extremely high after 9/11, (and may still exist to this day), it does not exist to the same degree as it did nine years ago.  But we would be fooling ourselves to think that a 13-story mosque being erected in the shadows of Ground Zero is not going to add to the pain that the families of 9/11 victims already feel.

I may not be able to directly empathize with the families of 9/11 victims, but I can do so indirectly.  Our respective losses happened within weeks of each other, so the healing time is the same.  It stands to reasons that If I still have trouble seeing rollerbladers and scenes of Central Park to this day, that family members of 9/11 victims will be tormented upon each visit to Ground Zero should the proposed mosque be built merely a few blocks away.

My opinion is by no means a condemnation of the Muslim faith, and I do not think that most Muslims are terrorists.  However, the terrorists that were responsible for perhaps the most tragic day in American history were Muslim, and it would be virtually impossible for a 13-story mosque near Ground Zero to be anything other than a painful reminder of that fact.

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