Patriot Day: Perspective without partisanship

Today is a day we all remember. Today is a day for us to band together as Americans, to feel patriotic and united like we did on that day. Partisan politics has no place today. Today, we’re just Americans. So today, I’m going to do something a little different.

Everyone has an ‘I was doing such-and-such when I heard the awful news’ story. While I normally try to refrain from talking about personal experiences in this blog, I feel like today is different.

I was only eight years-old on September 11th, 2001. My experience is similar to those of many my age: I went to school like any other day, but for some reason, the teachers were all crying and whispering to each other. At lunch, some parents came and took my classmates home. My dad brought me lunch, which was exciting and a treat at the time, even though I didn’t know why he came. What I didn’t understand at the time is that right then, at that moment, a lot of parents just needed to be with their kids.

The rest of the day passed with continued confusion, with extra recess and class movies, so the teachers could crowd into their lounge and watch the news. I was curious, but I didn’t complain. Instead of learning fractions, I got to play four-square all day. For a third grader, it doesn’t get much better than that.

It wasn’t until my dad picked me up from school and drove me to Sonic for a snack that I knew something was seriously wrong. My dad doesn’t just acquiesce to fast food. He would always suggest a snack at home, or something at least relatively healthy until I annoyed him so much begging for french fries that he would occasionally give in. For my dad to take me for fast food, after already bringing me Wendy’s for lunch– that was unprecedented. To third-grade me, that meant something was wrong.

After we ordered a snack, I ask my dad what’s going on. I’m starting to get scared now, but I don’t know why. He sighs and doesn’t respond for a long time. Silence fills the car. Finally, he says something I have never forgotten.

“Look up in the sky. What do you see? What’s different?”

I look up expecting to see an alien invasion or a tornado, or something crazy like that, that happens all the time in movies. But the sky is clear and perfectly blue. Nothing looks amiss to me. I look back at my dad confused and shrug.

“Okay, sweetie, what don’t you see?”

I look up again, but it’s the same confusion. The sky is there, the clouds are there, the sun is still shining. I still don’t know.

“Do you see any planes?” No, I don’t. But I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

“Today is the only day of your life that you won’t see a single plane in the sky.”

The weight of the words were lost on me as a third-grader, but still resonate with me today. As I grew up and began to understand the truth of that day, I can’t help but remember my own story, and the everlasting impression of a plane-less sky. A clear sky was a bleak symbol.

A sky without a plane is a country without progress, without technology; a nation without hope, without freedom. That’s why we all need to band together on this important day, to remember what we strive for in our nation. Our constitution isn’t always conducive to peaceful politics, but it sustains our progress, and our freedom. That’s what makes us Americans.

Never forget.

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