Today is September 11, but you already know that. It's strange how something so huge can entirely change your life, and then with time it slowly fades into the background until something triggers those memories bringing them all flooding back. It's been long enough that I had almost forgotten what today was. . . . Almost, but not quite.
How can you really ever forget something that changes so much of your life? You can't. Even though I'm a much older and wiser 26, when I think about 9/11 suddenly I'm a terrified 16 year old again trying to wrap my brain around brands of hatred and heroism I can not even begin to understand. And after all this time, I still can't, but that's life.
I spent this morning helping with a rather unique service project, cleaning around headstones at a local cemetery. Using shovels we were to dig the overgrown sod away from the stones, load it in a truck and then sweep the sites clean, back-breaking but necessary. At first I was just wanting to get it over with and get out of there (I'm soooo not a morning person and I have this thing about feeling like I'm standing on someone every time I set foot in a cemetery. Weird, I know.), but as I jumped on the shovel over and over to dig out the grass crowding the headstones. . . something changed. All of a sudden I realized that these were people, or had been, and I should be grateful for the chance to come and honor those who had passed on by performing the simple service of setting to rights their final resting place. Then as I started working around more of the stones I started noticing their names, the dates and the inscriptions engraved on the stones. It's really hard to have a crummy attitude when you realize that you are doing for someone something that they can not do for themselves.
About halfway through the project I noticed a stone off to the side that had been missed. It was farther away from the truck than the rest and all but hidden in the grass, so it had been simply overlooked and forgotten. I eyeballed the distance to the truck and decided like everyone else it was too far for my taste, and someone else could deal with it. But as I turned to walk away I had a thought that made me take up my shovel and go back . . . . . What if it was me? What if I was the one who's stone was forgotten?
As I cleaned the grass from around the stone, I wondered about the man who's name it bore. John Roberts. He died in 1986, so I would have been about 2 when he left for that better place in the wild blue yonder. There were no flowers and the headstone looked like it had not been cleaned in quite a while, causing me to wonder if Mr. Roberts has anyone to remember him. Well, he has at least one now.
I guess the point of this post is this: People should never be forgotten, even if they are no longer walking among us. So very many lives were lost on 9/11, and in the years of war that have followed. Those lives should never be forgotten, and their sacrifices for their loved ones and their country should be recalled with gratitude. I for one will always be more grateful that I can ever say. So a simple "Thank You" is the best I can do, in tandem with keeping the memories of those heros alive.