The Angry American

June 22, 2011

This past June, we took our son on his first trip to Washington, D.C.

Showed him the city in grand style. The museums, the monuments, the zoo. Even the U.S. Capitol thanks to my husband’s college friend Rep. Vicky Hartzler.

Previously I’d spent a good deal of time in D.C. I knew the ropes. But this trip would be my first visit to the Pentagon. Don’t know why I hadn’t gone before.

My husband had work commitments that day, so my little boy and I were on our own. We rode the yellow line out to the Pentagon stop. Emerged from the Metro tunnel into hot, blinding sunlight. Passed through security. Beheld the military headquarters of the free world.

The Pentagon is massive.

the Pentagon Memorial

We walked two long sides girded by concrete barriers. Crossed paths with dozens of strong men and women. Upright, built, neat as pins in their uniforms, marching to their cars or the train. It was late afternoon. Time for some to go home.

Then we came to the place we’d come to see.

It was seamless and silent. Completely ordered. Respectful. Logical. Such a stark contrast to what must have been the moment the plane torpedoed the southwest side of the building.

bench, pool, pebbles

And it was beautiful. The pools of water. The trees and pebbles. The paths and benches.

The benches stood in trajectories arched toward the building for the 59 passengers on the plane who died and arched away for the 125 people in the Pentagon who died. Engravings held the victims’ names.

Another mother walked among the benches and the names with her son.

“How do I explain this to him?” she said to me.

I shrugged. Nodded. Tried to connect with her eyes, “I know. I know.”

a family

My son and I walked on through the memorial. The strange peacefulness that sometimes inhabits a graveyard hung in the air. I wondered if he felt it too.

I let it be. Didn’t try to explain it.

There is no explaining it.

If there is pain, fear, sadness, anger—that’s part of grief. Part of a process that can’t be circumvented, reasoned or negotiated.

"How do I explain this to him?"

The only way through it is through it.

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
You consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless. Psalm 10:14 NIV

Courtesy of The Red , White and Blue (The Angry American)  by Toby Keith expresses the anger and resolve many Americans felt in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

This is the second of three posts commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9.11.2001. The first post Somewhere in Pennsylvania was published on August 24, 2011. The final post If You See Something was published on September 10, 2011.

We will never forget.

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Filed under America, remembering 9/11

20 Responses to The Angry American

  1. I’ll be posting my own commentary on the tenth anniversary of 9-11 soon. I knew one person who died that day, an old aquaintance from my childhood. He was I believe the highest ranking NY fireman to die that day in the towers, Jack Fanning.

    While I’ve been to D.C., and Manhattan – before and after the attacks – I’ve never been to the Pentagon. I’m from Louisiana and a couple of years after 9-11 a memorial had been built in Lafayette, LA – probably similar memorials were built across the US – using some steel from the Trade Towers and I’m guessing some stone from the Pentagon.

    The memorial used two steel beams standing on end to represent the towers and there were clear burn marks either from the attack/destruction or added by the artist to represent the plane entries. The base of the memorial was a concrete pentagon, with a portion of one edge evidently, purposefully chipped off, again to represent the plane that struck the Pentagon. Chunks of stone were strewn inside the memorial which was dirt covered by mulch. I’m guessing the stone was from the Pentagon.

    I’ve also posted an article about being angry. It’s not necessarily along the same lines as your posting however, though perhaps still applicable.

    • It’s interesting to me to see 10 years later how folks remember, process and respond to what happened. 9/11 may have been a national shared experience, but means of dealing with it can be decidedly individual.

      It’s also challenging to explain 9/11 to my son who wasn’t even born until 2004. Not because I can’t tell him what happened. But because it’s so painful and horrific. As another friend commented on this post on FB, the only way to explain what happened is “honestly.”

      Thanks for the link to the anger piece. I’ll check it out and look forward to your post remembering 9/11 as well.

  2. Excellent piece. I can think of nothing to add or say to this. I would only echo your last statement….The only way through it is through it.

  3. Diana Byrd

    May we always remember, & move forward in the confidence of God to restore that which was lost within the human spirit.

  4. Kari

    You are right, Aimee. There is no explaining it. I applaud you for taking T. He may never know how deep the pain is for some people (and I pray he never has to know) but I’m sure he will remember being there. And those memories of spending the day with you, walking through the memorial area, will only be more important as he grows. Because of your heart for this country your son will remember the day and appreciate those who leave their families and friends for us. And especially those who make the ultimate sacrifice. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Kari.

      It may sound corny, but I feel very deeply about visiting the national monuments and memorials in D.C. They’re sacred places. This one is no exception. And this one commemorates something that happened in my lifetime. It is very real to me. I watched the events unfold that day. I watched the paradigm change for the defense of our country. That’s major and so important, I think, to share with T.

      George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Roosevelt, MLK, the Civil War, the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and now 9/11: my son needs to be aware of the history of this hard won freedom. We all do.

  5. So many things to see in DC. I hope to make it there in the short future. That will now be on my list, thanks for sharing

  6. Great post. I’ve never been to the East Coast myself – I only moved to the States a few years ago. I was still living in Europe at 9/11, and it shook me – even though I had nothing to do with the US back then, and I was nothing but an angsty punk of a teenager who hated any and all authority. But seeing thousands of people die for something they never did just didn’t make any sense; not then, not now, not ever. I would love to once go and see Ground Zero and the Pentagon, along with all the national memorials.
    In my country, being proud of our achievements is a bit of a taboo – we had a long communist rule, and then a “bloodless revolution”, when practically nothing has changed. Now, a good 20 years later, the country tries to fling to the other side, but falls too far… and anymore, whilst I’m not even an American citizen yet, I feel prouder as an American than I was as a Hungarian.
    Sorry for the slight tangent here… and on an even further tangent, it still blows my mind sometimes that while I was so shocked, horrified and shaken by 9/11 – for children like your son or my future children (when I’ll have any!), this is just as much history as World War II or Korea is for us… It’s just odd to embrace the fact that we lived through something that changed the world so much… we’re kind of a part of history.

    • CN, we absolutely are part of history as witnesses to 9/11. And you sir, are a witness to an astounding history in your homeland too. Wow.

      I remember the “bloodless revolution.” On this side of the big pond, we lived many years in fear. Certain that a change in communist rule would be impossible without bloodshed. Thank God freedom came without physical war, even though as you alluded working out the change is still difficult no the people.

      It may be taboo, but do be proud of your heritage as a Hungarian and your country’s achievements. It touches my heart to see you write you are proud as an American too. This freedom is a treasure. God bless you, man.

  7. Aimee – thank you for your encouragement. (However, I’m not quite as much of a sir as I am a miss :) ) I’m finding myself to be more and more patriotic to both of my nations as I’ve spent more time away from Hungary. I’m not sure how much of the news from there reach the States – our home government just made it pretty much impossible to ever really close down that era by making all files about internal espionage, informants, political background games, etc. indefinitely confidential. What worries me is that most of the people on or near power now are either those very people who were there in the Communism, or their much like-minded children. Makes me double glad to be in the States…

    • Oh, CN! I’m so embarrassed! I don’t know why I assumed you were a sir. Sorry for the mixup, Miss! (I can be such a ditz online!)

      Again, I am touched by your experience and sentiments about the States. So glad you’re here and able to live and think and work as you wish. Freedom is precious and worth fighting for!

      PS: Checked out your blog. Delicious! Will follow And Cuisine for All…

  8. Don’t worry, most people make the same mistake – most of my friends online did too!
    Thanks for following my blog! :)

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  10. If there’s still a spot on Reader’s Choice… this is mine. While I enjoyed Milk Wars and I Like My Bike, this was the post that hit me the deepest this year; not just here – all around the blogosphere.

    The impact of history on a generation of people… and the lack of impact on those born after the tragedy. As Tolkien would put it, “the sorrow of the Firstborn”. That we have seen and experienced something that no words can ever describe to those who weren’t there to see it; we stand monument to the greatest tragedy of modern times.

    • CN, you slay me.
      I’m moved by your suggestion. You can guess what post is up for tomorrow. It was supposed to be the final Reader’s Choice…
      However, this is my blog and there’s always room for more. Look for a bonus Reader’s Choice post coming up next week.

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