Harriet Frieberger: Memories of 9/11 linger still, 19 years later
“Summer ends. The last remaining days of one year’s passage around the sun returns us to that memory of terror. Hatred’s heat has scarred our youthful, trusting soul, its residue an icy scar whose chill remains.”
Those words speak of America’s shock on that September morning 19 years ago. Those old enough will remember the gathering a year later when folks here in the valley found an antidote to the evil carried in four jet planes.
Days and nights had shortened, lengthened, then shortened once again. Through each season’s change the memory lingered — dark smoke and blinding ashes. With the conclusion of that first year, movement into the future came a little easier.
On the rising hill in the Yampa River Botanic Park’s center, families and friends came together, felt the softness of freshly trimmed green grass and breathed the scent of the garden’s treasures. There were firemen and policemen, appreciated. There was music, and the catch in our throats that made it hard to sing the words: “from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam.”
There were words from officials and soothing thoughts from Pastor Tim Selbe. But the important thing that day was being together, knowing that our children were safe and loved and protected, that we cared about each other.
All who died became a part of us, the living — young and old, dark-skinned, tan and light; father, child and mother; cousin, sister, brother; even those we never met and did not know. Together now in history; faces, bodies, spirits snapped into one picture. Their voices from our past remind us what they all came for, through two and a half centuries, to our shores, to our statue of liberty, to our towers.
Every year up until now, a small group of people has come together at the sheltering amphitheater of the Botanic Park — neighbors and friends and visitors, to honor those who are gone from the living. Listening to music as the sun moved slowly to the west, we learned about those who died on that fateful day and about those who lived on to grieve.
We recognize each other now, when we meet in other places, sense the sympathy, feel the understanding. One couple moved here from New York City only a few weeks before that day in September, he having worked at an office in the tower. Grandparents brought the 2-year-old who has grown up to be proud that his grandpa, who returned to NYC to help fellow firemen. Sitting quietly, we have felt the remaining warmth of the stones we sat upon, felt a tear take shape as we looked at the small flag of red, white and blue.
But this year, as I reach for words on this 11th day of September, in the year 2020, I think of those departed whose innocence will be a guiding compass to a truth that can be seen clearly through their eyes, That truth can enable the present day’s troubled seekers to find a new purpose. A rising tower in New York City points into the heavens above this country, and, like the structure’s steel and glass, those ended lives will become a supporting stanchion of the future.
Time has come for recognition of hate’s danger, for having the courage to seek the truth instead of listening only to what is worthless bickering, and instead, to heed what hearts and minds can teach. This is America. Two towers fell at the hands of those who hate.
Though there will be no gathering this year at the Botanic Park, the people of this valley will live up to its tradition of caring. The past belongs to those who lived it. Let us who are living the present pass it on to the children of the future.
Harriet Freiberger has lived in the Elk River Valley since 1982.
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