It was one of those rare moments in life which seem so simple and mundane, yet teach a lesson you cannot forget.
I had made a trip to the local grocery store to pick up a few things, and in the dairy department I noticed an elderly gentleman standing nearby. He held a carton of half and half in his hands, staring at it and gently rubbing his fingers gently over the top.
When I approached him and asked if I could help him, he spoke without taking his eyes off the carton.
"I guess it'll never be the same again," he quietly said. On the carton he held in his hands was the expiration date that his thumb now underscored; "September 11, 2007." Suddenly, I realized why this gentleman was so emotional and what his quiet words meant.
That date, 9-11, has obtained an eerie, disquieting nature during the past five years. It is an appalling reminder of the animalistic nature to which man can revert.
After Sept. 11, 2001, public service organizations, government and businesses from across our nation met their greatest challenge.
But, to quote the song, "Some gave all, all gave some." From every corner of our nation, private citizens came forward to learn new skills. Businesses stepped forward to create and install protective measures for their employees and the public, and local government was there to assist in funding and guiding these efforts. Volunteerism across America, as a result of 9-11, reached proportions not witnessed since World War II.
Locally, the Columbia County's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program was launched with an opening membership of 25 private citizens. From that point, it has steadily grown to 187 individuals who have served their community. It is an effort that I am very proud of joining.
Recently, Jami Floyd, a commentator on CourtTV, was reviewing the movie World Trade Center. Floyd recounted her own experience in viewing the film, how she "saw one woman run from the theater in tears." Floyd then said that although the film was very good, she must ask the question: "Why go there?" She seemed to be indicating that we need to withdraw from the memory of that moment in history. The answer to Floyd's question lies not in the horrors pictured on the screen, but in the astounding changes that America has seen since.
Whether by design or accident, the greatest tragedy of modern history occurred on the very date which denotes a call for assistance - 911. And, in spite of the immeasurable horror of the moment, America did not crumble under the attack. From every corner of the nation, Americans answered the cry and proved to all mankind that not only do we take care of our own but we rally our resources to protect the innocent citizens of the world.
If we truly want to pay tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, if we wish to honor the heroes of Flight 93, we must build not only a memorial of concrete and steel, but one of human compassion and dedicated service. We must build a system of protection for our citizens to assure that the children and grandchildren of those heroes and victims do not suffer the same fate.
And when our children ask, "Where were you?" we can reply that we stood the course and marched forth to meet the challenge. On that day, let future generations look to this time knowing that their pathway to independence was lit by our fiery diligence in maintaining the torch of freedom for them. On that day, let our children look back with pride and see the Twin Towers not as a symbol of defeat, but as the gateway through which America passed in order to assure an existence devoid of terror for ourselves and our posterity.
Let the word go out from this time forward that a new battle cry has been created for public service, volunteerism and America: "Remember 9-11!"
Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.
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