The cashier had me pegged for a patriot, but I was really just another football fan. There I was, standing in line with my flag pole that just happened to come with an American flag. I thought it was a great bonus, and would surely hang it for the rest of the year when football was over and my Georgia G came down.
Then she said it: “Buying this for tomorrow?”
I did my best to hide from my face the instant shame I felt. “Yes ma’am,” I lied.
Tuesday was September 10, and I was in The Home Depot to take care of another bullet point on the endless list that comes with putting together a new house: a flag pole. I was planning to go home, store the American flag, and put up that Georgia G.
I don’t mean for this to be another clichéd way of drilling home the “never forget” message. I don’t think anyone really “forgets” days like September 11, 2001.
I took the above picture when I went back to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii this summer. I saw there were still endless crowds of people paying their respects along with me. Nearly 72 years later, it proves we have a long memory for our meaningful tragedies and the importance of remembering them.
But I do think we push them from our minds as we go about living our day to day lives. Fall is for football, winter for holidays, and summer for cookouts. We don’t always spend time in a cemetery on Memorial Day, or pause to think about the deaths of soldiers whose names still come across the newscast from time to time.
I’ve covered a number of homecoming processionals for these men, and it’s always a stirring scene. Hundreds line the route in tears, holding pictures of another young man killed in the Middle East. I covered one this past Sunday in Douglasville. Staff Sgt. Joshua Bowden’s friends and supporters lined the route for miles. To many he was a stranger, but they still held hand-made posters and flags in one hand, tissues in the other.
The procession passed. The crowds lining both sides of the street paused—and then started to leave. They walked back to their cars, folded up their flags. I too packed up my camera and walked back to my car.
When I turned to look back down the street, everyone had gone back to their plans on that beautiful Sunday morning.
Life moves on—just as it will today on September 12th. But at least they took their time to honor what it means to serve; to reflect on what 9/11 meant to one man and the continuing consequences of that day.
I’m glad I was able to see it, and I'll try to do better to pay my respects outside the days marked on the calendar.
My Tuesday forgetfulness was all the more shameful considering I’d already made plans for honoring September 11. “The Guys” is a play about a journalist who helps a NYC firefighter pen eulogies for his fallen comrades. It was very moving when my wife and I went Wednesday night.
It plays for several more weeks at Theatrical Outfit downtown. Always a fantastic venue for heartfelt shows.
10/13/2022 02:14:38 am
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10/29/2022 03:53:41 pm
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2/3/2023 06:21:40 am
Thank youu for this
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I'm Marc McAfee. I write news stories for a living, but every once in awhile I write a little more than what makes it on the air. Thanks for taking a look.