Every office window, every vehicle, every home, had an American flag on display. Skyscrapers draped flags from rooftops and cars and trucks tethered them flapping in the winds of roads and interstates. People were nicer to one another. Everyone was an American.
Coming from the rural Midwest in the prime of a career, I moved to Upstate New York and for almost ten-years commuted to work in New York City. Myself a “fish out of water” I’m often tempted to refer to that as a “mistake” of judgment, but in truth it wasn’t. It was the experience of a rural young lady’s lifetime and I’m grateful for it.
Once you are a New Yorker that sense of being never leaves you. You feel like you have this special inside track into the rest of the world. You were inundated with people-in-the-know and had a firsthand seat to renown events shaping our world. You forever view yourself as an integral part of all that has and does take place there.
Working at CBS I took a late day lunch and our side street was irregularly bare. Andy Rooney (60 Minutes), with flushed-face and an overcoat slung over his shoulder, passed like two old friends too tired from work to do more than exchange passing hellos. My job sent me to an event at The Mayor’s Mansion where I ”let the corn come out of my ears’ (as Dad would say). Let me put it this way, I bet Mayor Koch still remembers me.
Being so close then to all that was and is ‘Donald Trump’ and his name so frequently in what was then ‘local’ news, he feels more like a casual acquaintance than a president I’ve never met. Sometimes I had to remind myself of that. The World Trade Center bombing was a memory of “I’m glad I didn’t go there today” rather than a piece of American history. For as impersonal as New York is, what happens in New York always feels personal to those who’ve lived there. Their slogan should be: “What happens in New York goes with you.”
Nine-eleven is the kind of day and time when everyone remembers where they were. I’d ‘escaped New York’ back to the Midwest and was sitting at my desk at work. There were no iPhones and workplace internets weren’t as accessible as today, so radio and word of mouth was the only source of information. I hadn’t seen any of the images, my imagination wrangled to envision what I’d heard. I called my Father nearby, but he knew little more than I.
Instinctively the frantic rush of fearing war on American soil came over me. Just as instinctively, I reassured myself that couldn’t possibly be so. Living in Ohio at the time, the most pertinent news for us became of the plane that was being steered back toward Washington D.C. The flight that passengers thwarted in a Pennsylvania field.
There are two things I remember most about that week. The first was the overwhelming number of missing person pamphlets posted two or three thick across massive New York fronts lining its streets. There was scene after scene of them, many handwritten spur-of-the-moment. It was hard to fathom possible so many loved ones could be missing and even harder to fathom those who’d jumped from the Towers to escape its intense heat. It made one’s heart bleed with all of these souls’ pain.
What I recall most vividly in the days that followed is immense American patriotism. In every state, city and small town, in every office window, every vehicle, every home, there was an American flag on display. Skyscrapers draped flapping flags like blankets from rooftops and cars and trucks tethered them to windows, flapping in the breeze down every road and interstate. People were nicer to one another. Everyone was an American.
[GreatSeal.com] ~ E Pluribus Unum describes an action: Many uniting into one. “From Many, One” or “Out of Many, One” – a phrase that captures the symbolism on the [American] shield. The meaning of this motto is better understood when seen with the image that originally accompanied it:
I didn’t know anyone who died in 911 … I knew them all.
God rest their souls and comfort their families. God bless America.