Driving this past summer between Pittsburgh and Gettysburg. Needed to stop for lunch.
Made our way off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, through a little town, and into a Pizza Hut. The buffet’s a crowd pleaser.
Sat down with our salads and slices. Remarked how this Pizza Hut was unlike any other restaurant we’d visited.
The place was decked out in Star Spangled Banner. Flags hung from the windows, the ceiling, the salad bar. All awash in red, white and blue.
It was June 14th. Flag Day. Though it really didn’t matter. I’m a pushover when it comes to Old Glory. This was my kind of place.
Had the iPhone handy, so I snapped a couple pictures. After our meal, I walked the restaurant and snapped a few more.
That’s when I saw it. A large banner centered behind the buffet:
Flag of Honor. This flag contains the names of those killed in the terrorist attacks of 9.11. Now and forever it will represent their immortality. We shall never forget them.
And centered on the other side, another banner:
Flag of Heroes. This flag contains the names of the emergency services personnel who gave their lives to save others in the terrorist attacks of 9.11. Now and forever it will represent their immortality. We shall never forget them.
Chilling, dignified, fearless patriotism. Alive and well in a small town pizza joint.
Soon we were back on the Turnpike. Green hills and forests surrounded us with billowing gray clouds overhead.
A wind farm south of the road offered the only hint of motion for miles. Low mountains rose in the distance, ahead of the quiet rain now spattering our windshield.
Picked up the iPhone again. Googled the county where we ate lunch: Somerset.
Mapped it in relation to the town in Pennsylvania: Shanksville.
Somewhere just north of us it happened. The hijacked plane plunged through these skies.
In this air, Todd Beamer prayed The Lord’s Prayer and concluded: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”
There was no sign. No fanfare. No convenient off-ramp to pay respects. The highway speeded us through, leaving the place behind in the rain. We’d crossed hallowed ground and nearly missed it.
The people there will never forget. Will we?
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NIV
Alan Jackson’s Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning bids us to remember.
This is the first of three posts commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9.11.2001. The second post The Angry American was published on September 1, 2011. The final post If You See Something was published on September 10, 2011.