Remembrance—and Strength

I remember exactly where I was that morning in 2001.  I was in my car; I was listening to “All Things Considered” on the Radio.  The show was interrupted briefly—dead air.   The announcer from the local station came back on the air a few seconds later with news of a small plane possibly having crashed into the World Trade Center.

The rest of that morning is a blur of news reports on radio and television (I was standing in an attorney’s office with the television on when the first tower fell); of the endless parade of emergency vehicles rushing from Long Island into Manhattan; of cellphones not working and the frustration of not being able to call family or friends (and finally reaching the wife of one of my best friends, a Port Authority Police Officer, and the relief to discover he wasn’t working at the Trade Center that day); of giving directions to a woman from Westchester stranded here on the island because the bridges were closed; of the sight and sound of jet fighters flying over head; and of brilliant blue skies on a breathlessly beautiful late summer day marred by the black-gray smear of smoke hanging on the horizon over Manhattan.

I remember, too, the days following the attacks.  I remember how we drove with our flags on our cars, and how it seemed the roadways were calmer, drivers more respectful of each other as we all came together in a solidarity of sympathy and mourning.

Those flags were something else.  Everyone seemed to have one: small flags flying from cars, flag stickers on rear windshields, flag lapel pins, flags hanging in store windows.  The flag gave us strength in the days after the attacks, and I remember that.

Here, then, as a remembrance of September 11, 2001, and of the strength we drew from the flag, a tribute to our American flag by ee cummings:

Our Flag

O flag of the nation! O Red, White and Blue!
O symbol of liberty, waving anew!
All through our lives may we reverence thee,
The nation’s bright ensign for liberty!

Dear flag, thou art sacred in peace and in war,
Where many have died for the striped and the star,
Where many have died that the slave may be free,
Have died for the nation and liberty!

Thou has seen the great battles, thou hast witnessed the strife
And the din of the conflicts, death struggling with life,
And thy bright, waving banner, the dying could see
Who had fought for the nation and liberty.

So whenever we meet thee, it matters not where;
Be thou waving at home or on battlement bare,
May we stop and salute thee, whenever we see
The nation’s bright banner for liberty.

-E.E. Cummings