By Brian Bloom
The wounds are less painful now, the bruises almost healed. The memories, especially for us far removed geographically blur between factual recollection and the embellishment that seems to naturally come over time. The pictures of loved-ones-lost no long dance in the breeze. Their edges no longer smudged with the touch of too many fingers, no longer blurred by too many tears. Today the 9/11 commemorative historic site is memorialized with large reflective pools and water falls, set amidst a sky scraper forest. Today the names of the more than 2,600 lost lives are etched on a copper parameter, symbolically organized by association to one another. Today the cries of the lives lost are muffled – yet not forgotten. “As we all have our personal memories of what occurred on 9/11, those of us that responded to the Pentagon and World Trade Center have a perspective only we can share,” Collierville Fire Inspector Paul Witt told a crowd gathered at Collierville City Hall Tuesday. Witt was one of three Collierville firemen who were part of Tennessee Task Force-One, an urban search and rescue team. He spoke of the sleepless ride to the Pentagon, the emotions of leaving one’s family; of working 12-hour shifts to clear the damaged area and stabilize the building. “We look upon that date as a beginning and not an end,” Witt said. “We gather so it will not be forgotten.” It was a beautiful fall morning, those who were touched most would recall. They remember the surreal atmosphere, the smoke and the debris, the planes and the flame set against a powder blue sky. They remember walking, orderly without the hint of chaos yet chaos reigned around them. They remember the bridge – being among the masses -heading to Brooklyn, to Queens to the Bronx – away they walked, not always knowing where but always away. They remember the fear – the deep penetrating uncertainty of what could come next. They remember the anger – the biting, defiant rage that comes when all is lost and blame is not easily identified. They remember the sorrow – the depth of despair that ate at their stomachs and wore on them like a weight being dragged from day to day. They remember the sense of utter isolation in a city of millions and the sharing of something greater than any one person or people. They remember the heartache impossible to describe as they scanned pictures of friends and family never to be heard from again. The recording left all these years later on an obsolete answering machine… the scribbled note, pasted on the fridge. They remember looking up to see their world ablaze and scant moments later, reduced to carcinogenetic rubble. The loss was like a rolling tide, wave after wave affected on this day the world stood still; the wife kissing her husband goodbye as he darted from the unloading zone into the airport gate. The husband brown-bagging his lunch as he made his way to the Pentagon. There were tearful goodbyes as those stranded more than 100 stories in the heavens could only wait to meet their maker. There was serene silence followed by a deafening roar as ignited jet fuel weakened the twin towers supports. There were the friends and relatives, neighbors and co-workers stretched across the country and the globe watching in horror; news casters silent as the enormity of what was unfolding overwhelmed their ability to describe the atrocity. “No doubt each one of you can recall exactly where you were and what you were doing on this fateful morning 11 years ago,” Major General (retired) Robert J. Williamson told the Collierville crowd Tuesday. “You can readily recall every emotion as events unfolded on national television; first – curiosity; then – horror, disbelief, sadness and finally – anger and resolve! Once again our nation steeled itself for action and unified as one voice, one spirit – the spirit of freedom. The sleeping giant was awakened and roared ‘never again!'” Former President George W. Bush expressed the essence of our American will, Williamson said. “A great people have been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve,” Williamson said in quoting the president. On May 1, if vengeance is a reckoning, they were revenged. On a moonless night, approximately two dozen Navy Seals overcame extraordinary adversity and hunted 9-11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. Two stealth Black Hawk helicopters were dispatched to a walled compound in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. One pilot soft-crashed against the compound’s inner wall but the mission was not deterred. Thirty-eight minutes later, with the President himself listening in, Bin Laden lay dead. Today, as we as a nation look back upon the most horrific terroristic breach of our borders, a wistful smile can soften still-flowing tears. Today, as the bell tolls upon the reading of those who lost their lives, we can recall our innocence. Today, sadness and pride reside together and under a powder blue sky we will once again remember.