Since this seems to be the week for it, I was thinking about where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. I was at home. My neighbor called me and told me to turn on my TV. This was shortly before the first tower fell. My husband Eric and I spent a majority of the morning glued to the TV.
It was the events days later that stay with me the strongest. I had learned that a woman who had grown up in Avoca had died during the attack at the Pentagon. I never met Cheryle Thedans Sincock, but I knew her mother, who lived just a short distance away from our house. I delivered Meals on Wheels to her for a while and often stopped to chitchat or fetch her mail.
Our church decided to have a memorial service for Cheryle and all the victims of 9/11, and I was asked to sing. “Let There Be Peace on Earth” was the first song that came to mind, as I had found strains of it running through my head constantly the day of the attacks.,
I remember sitting in church and seeing members of Cheryle’s family huddled together, supporting each other. I was so choked up I could hardly sing. To this day, I can’t hear that song without thinking of the grieving family and the events of that time.
A few days ago, I was chatting with an empty nester mom who has a son in Kuwait. We discussed how hard it is to have someone gone and not know on a daily basis that they’re OK, eating well… things like that. We talked about how 9/11 is still affecting our lives. A short time later, I was talking to a firefighter about 9/11. We discussed how we had both wanted to immediately get in our rescue equipment and drive to New Yorkor the Pentagon to offer assistance, and how helpless we felt watching the news footage of people dead or hurt.
Then I talked to Cheryle’s brother, who lives in Sioux Falls,S.D., but build her a garden in the Rose of Lima Cemetery in Avoca. I listened as he described the process his family had gone through to find out whether or not she had survived. I heard his pain as he relived the realization that she had not.
There was just so much to absorb that day and in the days to follow — the initial confusion about what was happening, the outrage, the horror, the sadness. And the unerring sense that nothing would ever be the same again.
A few attitudes lately have surprised me. I was reading an article about the 9/11 memorial being built in Marshall, and was surprised to see commentors berating the efforts of the people involved.
“Why do they need a memorial in some small town in southwest Minnesota?” one person wrote. “It’s not like it affected anyone there.”
“Why spend money to haul a chunk of junk from New York all the way back toMinnesota, where it means nothing,” another stated. “Why do they care?”
How can anyone believe an entire state was unaffected by that act of aggression toward our nation, just because of proximity? I was shocked.
But then a discussion about a broadcast scheduled for the morning of Sept. 11 came up, and I heard a person complain about the same thing being on several channels, and what were they supposed to watch in the meantime, blah blah blah. And I thought, “Wow, the apathy is back, and stronger than ever.”
Some are arguing over the “They didn’t invite the firefighters to Ground Zero” thing, and others are mad because the president wants Sept. 11 to be a day of remembrance and is asking people to volunteer their time in the service of others. While I find the arguing annoying, I find the apathy ever worse. I think apathy, nonsensical bickering and a lack of patriotism is what led us to that fateful day in 2001.
As the physician William Osler once said, “By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy — indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self-satisfaction.”
Me, I’d rather align myself with the group of people who are polishing fire trucks for memorial events, or spend a quiet day with family and friends helping someone in need. And will take the time to visit the nearby garden built to honor a woman who grew up two blocks from my house and died in her office at the Pentagon while going about her day.