Guest column: For 9/11, take a moment to listen and learn |

Guest column: For 9/11, take a moment to listen and learn

Harriet Freiberger
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
A solitary flag rests untouched at Yampa River Botanic Park's amphitheater during the 9/11 remembrance event.
Bryce Martin/Steamboat Pilot & Today

On this 11th of September, the sun will rise in the sky above the Rocky Mountains at 6:44 a.m., close to the same time it did that morning 21 years ago.

Clocks strike off the minutes for those who bear that day’s scars, and, too for those who watched and listened to reports from afar. Fingers move now to press keys that will “Pause”and turn off the sounds of the living. Penetrating the silence, their voices can be heard — men, women and yes, even children, who died on this day 21 years ago.

For too many of the this century’s first-born generation, no actual memory of that day exists. Stop now and close your eyes. Turn off your ever-present phone, your car’s engine, your fans and air conditioners. Cease pedaling, walking, swimming, reading. Breathe.

Then, if you concentrate, you may feel the moisture of tears that drop from the eyes of those who lived past the horror and loss that four jet planes wrought upon children now grown, parents now-aging and friends left alone, many of whom remember the blunt shock of that long-ago September morning.

Keep listening, and, if you truly focus, you will hear, or at least imagine that you hear, the tear drop on the page of the pictures they hold on their laps. In the soft vulnerability that comes close to actually touching, you will feel the pulsing strength of all the Americans who unite in the names of those 2,977, and in the name of freedom.

Keep your eyes closed a few seconds longer to imagine being in New York City, seeing and hearing the clock, famous around the world, that continues to mark the time of day in America’s iconic gateway. Now, open yourself to the place where you are, and see what has come to be after 21 years.

Look around slowly and see what is yours — your America, the word carrying the hopes and dreams of all freedom seekers in this 21st century.  We who live today can touch the moment — even teenagers and 20-somethings and many 30-somethings who have no actual memory of the day’s events, middle-aged men and women who can yet feel the impact of watching those towers fall, the 60s children who sang the songs of freedom in protesting crowds, and finally the elderly who recall not only the day those towers fell, but also the day their radios announced the attack upon Pearl Harbor.

We stand between then and now, all that was and all that is. The structures that fell those 21 years ago, already rebuilt, now weigh upon the compass that defines the path ahead for the travelers who stand astride the tracks that lead into tomorrow. Even having the certitude of steel, Americans must reach to find a needed balance, a way to touch each other, to listen, and to understand their common purpose.

Differences have served to define the conglomeration of motives that brought men and women to the land on this western side of the great Atlantic Ocean, a new world. All who have come and gone remain as signatories to the structure of the future way we think of ourselves: larger or lesser, courageous or fearful, merely surviving or actually earning our place. It is time for each of us to earn the respect of our fellow Americans, to listen and learn from each other, even from those with whom we disagree. Let us hear not only the voices of the past, but also each of our voices today, saying: “You can only be as free as me.”

Harriet Freiberger is author of “Homecoming” with veteran James Stanko, “Then and Now, A History of Steamboat Springs, Colorado” with photographer Ken Proper and “Lucien Maxwell: Villain or Visionary.”

Gathering at botanic park to honor victims of 9/11

A brief memorial service to remember the victims of 9/11 will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Children’s Amphitheater in the Yampa Valley Botanic Park.

The ceremony will be held rain or shine and feature 15 minutes of inspirational music, followed by remarks from community members who want to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and commemorate the anniversary.

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