Friday, August 19, 2011
As we write this column the eastern part of the United States is experiencing treacherously high temperatures and miserable humidity. The thermometer reads 104 degrees with a heat index of 115. Not only that, but there’s a storm coming over the western mountain threatening 60-mile-per-hour winds and quarter-sized hail. The trees are beginning to sway, and we have no reason to doubt the National Weather Service this time with the severe thunderstorm warnings they’ve issued. The air is tingling with the ozone that precedes a big storm, and we’re starting to think about where we last had that flashlight. Although I may have to shut down the computer and move away from the window before we’re done here, I’m not in a hurry to miss the display.
As a child, my mother lived in fear of thunderstorms. Her own mother was terrified of them, so whenever one approached, she’d gather her eight children and make them all stay on her bed with her until the storm passed. My mother, being among the oldest, took this as a very bad sign and decided if her mother was this frightened, then there must be a real reason for panic. Once she reached adulthood and learned the real dynamics of a thunderstorm she felt a little cheated. She vowed that none of her children would grow up fearing a natural phenomenon that, while certainly potentially dangerous, was also, with proper preparation, a spectacular show. At the first sign of a storm, she’d load us all into the back of her huge Buick and drive us a few blocks away to watch the storm on the ocean.
My brothers and I have many happy memories of lightning flashing into the sea and waves crashing in tune to the thunder. With the surf wild and the sky spewing fury, we felt at the heart of the universe. So, sure, don’t stand under a tree, go out on the golf course, or continue to swim, when you see that storm is rising. Gain shelter to ensure your safety. But, at the same time, don’t allow fear to spoil the joy of experiencing the power and majesty that come from safely watching the storm rise, roll, and remove itself in its own sweet time. We can’t so easily get to the ocean to watch it anymore, but we still treasure the memories of those times spent safely sharing the spectacle, safe, warm, and happy. Plus, we all still enjoy the storm from exactly where we happen to sit. Thanks, Mom.
Copyright 2011, UTA Industry Watch
Today, August 19, 2011, we can’t help but note that as the summer wanes our attention is being directed to the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11,, 2001. Of course, all of America will be commemorating that terrible day before too long, but today, we will feel a very direct and immediate impact of that remembrance. Our little town is likely to be overwhelmed with spill-over traffic desperately trying to avoid the nearby network of interstate highways. That’s because 2,800 riders on 1,800 motorcycles will have a police escort as they make their way along the interstate, into Washington D.C. and then into Northern Virginia to the Pentagon. All over the area, people have been warned to telecommute or take a vacation day today. Traffic tie-ups, in what is already the country’s 2nd worst traffic area, are expected to exceed delays of greater than two hours. We’re braced to take back roads or simply sit on the porch and watch the action.
The riders are organized by America’s 911 Foundation. According to the Washington Post, the group was hoping to get 2,977 riders to coincide with the exact number of those murdered on that terrible day. The goal of the riders is to raise scholarship money for the children of police officers and fire/rescue workers. They plan to visit all three crash sites within a three-day span. That means getting into and out of Washington smack in the middle of rush hour traffic on one of summer’s last getaway Fridays. Perhaps those unfortunate enough to be stuck in hot cars, waiting for traffic to clear, can spend their time remembering and commemorating the victims.
Living where we do, right between Washington and Camp David, it’s hard for us to forget that terrible day. We actually learned of the attack on the Pentagon through our local news before the national networks received the word. That’s when we realized that this was an act of war perpetrated against our country. Our hearts where filled with pain and also confusion. Do we go to school and get the kids? Do we let them stay where they are, knowing they may be safer there than at home? What can we expect to happen next? The terrible morning turned into an anxious day, and when we awoke the next morning, we said to each other, “That really did happen, didn’t it?” Of course, we knew even as we asked that all of America was feeling the same type of anguish. Then we got the kids ready and sent them off to school, knowing that no one felt safe. Still, the only kids whose families had taken them out of school were the ones who had parents working at the Pentagon. Acting as close to normal as possible was the best choice, we decided.
But, it was a new normal. In the days that followed, the skies above us were silent of air traffic, but for the fighter jets patrolling and maintaining safe airspace. Since we’re on the flight path to three large airports, this silence was eerily deafening. The whole world changed that morning, and for the first time, we knew how our parents must have felt on December 7, 1941.
In the weeks that followed, we created emergency evacuation kits and stocked up on supplies that would allow us to shelter in place. Even today, 10 years later, our sense of sovereign security has not returned entirely. We don’t complain about airport security, although, like many others, we question its effectiveness. We are overwhelmed by the sacrifice our military and their family members make. We have a much greater appreciation and respect for our local police and firefighters than ever before. We try our best not to take any single day for granted.
In the end, politicians will argue and our people may quarrel about how best to pay tribute to the fallen. But, for today, we’re grateful to these 2,800 riders who are doing their best to make sure America doesn’t forget and to provide for the children of our heroes. As for those of you who may be stuck in traffic today? Be thankful you have the privilege and pay quiet tribute in your own way—a minor inconvenience in our opinion.
May we never forget the 2,977 people who woke up on a beautiful summer’s morning and went to work or boarded a commercial jet only to find they’d never go home again. May we pay honor to the families who have mourned them every day since then. And may we remember not only the victims, but the fact that life truly is a treasured gift to be celebrated every single day. That’s the way it seems from where we sit.
Copyright 2011, UTA Industry Watch