I took a stroll down memory lane last week, but the truth is, I also sprinted part of the way not wanting to spend too much time lingering with some ugly memories. I reflected on good times and on tragic times, but all the events had one thing in common – I had to keep moving. Life went on.
I took a trip to Provo, Utah, to drop off my second son, Cody, at the Missionary Training Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He will be preparing to serve in the San Antonio, Texas, area, and will be speaking Spanish. The training center is adjacent to my alma mater, Brigham Young University. As we pulled off the freeway and drove up the street towards the campus, the floodgates of my memory opened up.
I passed the mall where I took my wife on our first date. We both swooned a bit at the memory and laughed. When we started down the hill from the mall, I remembered how she used to stick her head out the window to dry her hair as I drove her to work. I started to tell the story, but Cody had already heard about it so many times that he finished my sentence. We passed the stadium, places where we had lived, and old restaurants whose names had long since changed. I remembered classmates, old girlfriends, Air Force ROTC, walking up the hill to work, and quiet snowfalls. Images passed across the theater of my mind and filled me with nostalgia and joy.
In those days the cold war had reached a climax, and even though we didn’t know it, was about to end. We worried about thermonuclear war and the resulting nuclear winter. Terrorist from Libya bombed nightclubs in Germany, and President Reagan sent a clear message of, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” We worried about the end of the world in those days too, but life went on.
It was a nice stroll down that lane of mostly fond memories, and although I wanted to linger, I had to keep moving forward. Then as the week came to an end, I took a turn down Elm Street, and repeated a nightmare – the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
We sat down as a family and watched a documentary about that fateful day and discussed how we felt about the event. I wanted to race past those tragic memories and haunting images, but forced myself to slow down and remember.
Ten years. I know you’ve heard it. I know you’ve thought it. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years since the attacks of 9/11.” Even though it was a tragic day, life moved on.
I wasn’t on that road that fateful day. I was at home in Arizona and had just finished my morning run. When I opened the door the Television was blaring. My wife met me at the door in tears. When I witnessed the graphic images on the TV, I couldn’t process the scene. As I stood there trying to make sense of it all, the first tower collapsed, and so did I. My knees buckled and I felt like I was going to throw up. We worried about the images our kids were being subjected to and turned off the TV.
I sat there stunned, unable to speak. Cody broke me from my trance. “Dad, we’re out of milk,” he said from the breakfast table. That simple statement put me back into motion. His childlike perspective wasn’t calloused or cold. It was practical. My children inherently understood that time would not stop. Life would go on.
They say our world changed forever on 9/11, and in many ways it did. But life did not stop. It rolled on, changing daily.
Airport security became an exercise in patience, and continues to be a sore spot for travelers. We became familiar with terrorist cells, Al Qaeda, and argued over the spelling of Usama or Osama bin Laden. We watched video feeds from UAV’s and their smart bombs. We were relieved at discovering foiled plots like the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, and the Times Square bomber. We added words like “GITMO” and “IED” to our vernacular. We endured strip searches and roving wire taps.
In spite of the changes, the world moved forward. In Oct of 2001, the first Ipod was released and revolutionized the world of music. Then came the smart phones with built in GPS and multiple apps to make our life easier. Next came the Kindle, the Nook, and the Ipad. Airbus produced the world’s largest commercial airliner. Video conferencing, always a promise of science fiction, became a reality of everyday life. Facebook and Google changed the way we communicate and interact as individuals, and as communities. In the last ten years the world did not stop. In many ways it actually improved.
Now it is 9/12/11. Life marches on. What goals are we striving for? What new accomplishments are we seeking? What are we looking forward to?
It was a nice stroll down memory lane, and therapeutic to rush past the horrid scenes of ten years ago. I will never forget the lesson of my son’s prodding that brought me back to the present. We should remember and learn from the past. It is proper to give reverence to its memories both good and bad. But time doesn’t stop. Neither should we.
Life goes on. Are we going with it?
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