On 09/11/01, I was…

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On 09/11/01,  I was…

Has it been ten years? It seems a million years ago. It seems yesterday. Has it really been ten years?

Oelschlager.  Douglas, I think. Yes, Google confirms that it was Douglas. He was a man I’d never met. Doug was one of the heroes—one of the fireman who ran into the Towers on 9/11 and gave his life trying to save others. That is almost everything I know about him, except for the most important thing: He is remembered and loved. As I sit here trying to find words for this prompt, half-listening and watching the Ceremony at the World Trade Center Site, I just caught a brief half-glimpse of two children running their fingers in those letters etched in marble. Oelschlager. I don’t know who the kids are. I don’t know if they knew Doug, if they are his family or friends or the children of someone whose life was saved by Doug’s actions. I can only speculate. I only know—they are running their fingers in the letters of his name. Whether they intend or not, they are remembering Douglas Oelschlager.

They are only two kids. Others have filled other letters of other names with their own fingers and tears. Many are resting their hands on the names of loved ones lost. Some are kneeling and praying, placing white roses and American flags and photos on the names. And countless are making rubbings of the names on the Memorial using crayons and the master lists of those who died that day ten years ago. Each one is remembering someone.

We will never forget. Those were our words. That was America’s promise: We will never forget.

But sometimes I think we have forgotten. We remember the names and the faces, the images, the heroes, the victims. Do we remember the liberty?

Ten years ago, freedom was attacked by an enemy who couldn’t even look us in the eye with its challenge. America was founded upon the idea that a man could govern his own life, make his own decisions, and live with the consequences of those decisions. On September 11th, America remembered how precious, how costly, and how fragile that freedom is.

There will always be loss. There will always be sorrow. There will always be empty places in our hearts where loved ones belong. Knowing we will always face these things does nothing to assuage them. But even in the deepest despair, there is hope; even in the darkest night, there is a fading indigo into dawn; even when our grief is so heavy upon us for not making sense, there is a promise. There is freedom. There is hope.

Wherever you are, whatever you are facing, however your heart is breaking, dig your fingers deep down into the name of freedom. May there always be a letter deep enough for your rose stem. May there always be a crayon to rub a picture of the names on your heart. May there always be a place to rest your knees when you kneel to pray. May you always find an arm around you as you weep. May you always free an arm to hold others in their turn. May you know how very precious freedom is, and may you always defend her.

And may you never, never forget.

All my love,

Aunt Sarah