Two Events, Two Photos, One Thought To Ponder

Once They Stood Tall

Today we remember all those who died in the terrorist attacks. Those events which occurred on September 11, 2001, changed our lives as citizens of the United States. They changed the lives of families and friends of those who died or were injured in those attacks. They changed the lives of those who worked valiantly to rescue any survivors.

Most of us remember exactly what we were doing that morning—and the following days. I was working on my computer and my headline alert bleeped. I clicked on it and couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Those events have been indelibly transcribed into our memory banks. I remember the horror and fear I had all day as the appalling videos, photos, and reports of events came to us on TV and internet, and for some, phone calls.

Its impact on us is worth remembering. It’s also worth considering of those events’ consequences and how our lives and society have been reshaped since then. Because our world isn’t the same. In many ways it never will be again.

USS Arizona burning 12-7-1941

A similar event happened to my parents’ and grandparents’ generations with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. When I was growing up, adults would often refer to that day. How frightened they were when they first heard the news, and then how determined they became that the US declare war. My grandfather always talked about the calf that was born that morning. I think he named it Pearl.

That attack and the events that followed changed the path of US history for several years to come. It changed our economy. In 1941, news reporting was very different—the timing not so immediate, the photographic documentation slower and not so quickly available. Some Hawaiian residents didn’t know exactly what had happened until several hours later.

The next day President Franklin Roosevelt addressed a Joint Session of Congress, and the US nation sat glued to their radios. He gave his six and a half minute speech asking for a declaration of war. Its famous opening contained the phrase: “a date which will live in infamy.”  Within an hour of that speech, the US officially declared war. A very divided Congress managed to work together to achieve that.

Many years later, my husband and I had an opportunity to visit the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. That place became the first symbol for the reason the US declared war. When we visited the Arizona memorial, I spent quite awhile watching the oil slicks that still bubble up from that sunken ship. While I watched, I thought about my history classes and what happened during that war—the battles, the death tolls, the casualties, the negotiations, the suffering, the major changes in diplomacy, culture, and political alliances, the atomic bombs. For my parents generation, December 7, 1941 always lurked in their memories for what they lost, what they endured, what they gained, what changes came about in their world because of that event. They honored it each year.

The photo of the smoky, fiery mass of Pearl Harbor became a symbol of great sadness, survival, death and determination.

Skeletal Towers 9-11-2001

Fast forward to 2011. We have a photo which symbolizes what happened that day. It’s the tilted, blackened, skeletal remains of the Towers, smoke-shrouded, and with dusky light from the ash floating in the air and obscuring the sun. I’ve seen that photo often in the last few weeks. It hurts my heart every time for it evokes all we’ve lost as a nation. In so many ways our world is in a shambles as we work to find ways to cope with this new post 9/11 world.

We lost too many people that day. We’ve lost too many more in the wars that have followed. Families were fractured that day as a result of those terrorist attacks. Military families face dealing with badly injured returning soldiers. Many military families deal with financial difficulties.

Even worse, today, our citizens are polarized in deep seated ways that seem as divisive as the ones of our Civil War. And our Congress? No congressman yelled out to President Roosevelt during his speech that he lied.

September 11, 2001 is a day we must remember. A powerful photo symbolizes that terrible day which produced a community of spirit and support that ruled during that day and for some time. But we must find it again. Or that photo of the skeletal towers will reflect our country and what we’ve done to ourselves.

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12 Comments on “Two Events, Two Photos, One Thought To Ponder”

  1. A beautiful post, Mary Jo, and hugs to you on this sad day of reflection. Like most everyone, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001, and no doubt will for the rest of my days.

    Love & miss you & hope to see you soon!!

  2. Anne Parent Says:

    What a beautiful tribute to the two such horrendous historical events. And, a well written reminder that we are one nation that must learn to find common ground. I so hope that the venom being spewed from both the far left and far right may soon be overridden by the common sense found in the middle. Passion is good, but anger causes scars that may never be healed. Thank you for your reminder for a call of common sense.

  3. Watching the TV programming and reading posts like this bring back that ache in the pit of my stomach that I felt watching nearly the whole thing unfold ten years ago. Though I believe in moving on, I also believe in never forgetting. I want to feel what I felt that day and know I have not become jaded to the loss of all those lives and the way it has affected the families, friends, and survivors. I want to share in the energy of unification so many patriots must be feeling this day.

  4. Elle J Rossi Says:

    We can never forget. Too many lives were lost, too many families broken, too many tears shed for reasons I will never understand. I tried explaining why this happened to my 9 year old daughter yesterday. I know I failed. Why, why, why, indeed.

  5. caseyclifford Says:


    You will remember. My parents and grandparents did. While the feelings may dim, you will pass the tale of what you were doing ten years ago on to your children and grandchildren.

  6. caseyclifford Says:


    What frightens me most about this divisiveness and venom and you refer to it is how deep it runs and how wide. Thank you for your insight.

  7. caseyclifford Says:


    I’m so honored that my post prompted to you respond and add your thoughts to our need for unity and cohesion. Hope your summer went well.

  8. caseyclifford Says:


    Your daughter will remember your talk as vividly as you remember that day. It’s good she asks questions about why, especially since so much has changed since that day.

  9. Kathy Says:

    Thank you for expressing so eloquently what I have been feeling all week. I too was pondering the parallels between 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. And I too feel that the divisiveness in our country is on a par with what happened with the civil war. Is that what it’s going to take to get our country back on soild ground? I pray not!

  10. Edie Ramer Says:

    Thanks for this post. I remember the shock I felt 10 years ago. It’s changed our lives in so many ways. I feel sad for the people who lost loved ones, and for the first responders who are now ill because of all they’ve done.

  11. caseyclifford Says:


    The divisiveness is becoming more alarming with each headline and as our economy slides into a no man’s land more each day, too many of us may soon be fighting to survive. And the terrors will increase exponentially.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  12. caseyclifford Says:


    So many people who gave so heroically are living with long term health issues which their families’ also deal with. It’s one of the consequences we should think of more often. It’s very sad and upsetting that the help isn’t there for those in need.

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