Thursday, September 12, 2002

The 9-11 generation


Now, it's time for us to look ahead

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        We made it through one year. 9-11 is history.

        The period of mourning is officially over.

        But the time of remembering shall last forever.

        Never forget 9-11.

        But don't dwell on it, either.

        Remember what's important.

        Live your life. Enjoy today. Say “I love you” to those who count.

        And make a difference. Improve America.

        The victims at the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon and on a field in Pennsylvania would expect nothing less.

        To live in the past, to live in fear, to stop living as free Americans, would let the bad guys win. And that cannot happen.

Old Glory's tribute

        In memory of 9-11, the flag over Cinergy Field, along with flags around the Tristate, flew at half staff Wednesday.

        “This flag will be the first thing a lot of people see on their way to work in the morning,” said Tom Clark. The Cinergy Field electrician was perched on a catwalk atop the stadium.

        It was late Tuesday night. The Reds game was over. The victory fireworks only a memory. The clock ticked toward midnight. A new day. 9-11-02.

        A good 325 feet above the playing field and from home plate, Tom was in fair territory, next to the stadium's flagpole.

        He had the job of lowering the flag to half staff.

        “This is an honor,” he said, undoing the knot in the rope linking the flag to the pole.

        “To lower the flag represents the utmost respect for the people who went to work that day, to lead their lives, and never came home.”

        Tom is a 45-year-old Army vet. Lives in Newport. Has five kids. Just became a grandfather.

        By his own admission, he is “a sentimental man. When I see the flag lowered at half staff, my chest hurts.”

        We talked about sentiment, the Stars and Stripes and 9-11 on the way to the flagpole. We had time. Ten minutes. That's how long it takes to walk through the stadium's red seats, unlock and climb an 18-step staircase, tread across Cinergy's roof and pad along the catwalk that rings the building's crown and ends at the flagpole.

        After untying the knot, Tom hiked Old Glory to the top of the staff. Slowly, he lowered the flag. Red, white and blue unfurled in the late-night breeze.

        Tom secured the rope. Then, he stepped back, looking in silence at the flag.

        “The gesture is small,” he said, double-checking his knot.

        “But the meaning is large.”

Do them justice

        Retracing his steps along the catwalk, he shared what went through his mind as he gazed at the flag.

        “I thought about my family. I get to go home to them. Can't take that for granted.”

        He also thought about 9-11's victims, “the innocent people going about their daily routines and the dedicated ones who tried to save them. You want to honor their commitment some way.”

        One way would be to take a cue from the greatest generation.

        After Pearl Harbor, Americans got busy. They won a war, then went about making the greatest nation on earth even better.

        That generation did not need to keep replaying the fiery scenes of Pearl Harbor.

        The 9-11 generation has seen enough shots of the World Trade Center's collapse. Both images are indelibly burned into our national consciousness.

        Now, with 9-11's first anniversary behind us, it's time to look ahead.

        Americans must unite. And not just to defeat terrorism. The country must also join forces to rebuild our cities and save a disjointed society.

        If the 9-11 generation can do that, the victims of last September's attacks will not have suffered in vain.

        Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail: cradel@enquirer.com.

       

       



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