Where were you when…
On this sad anniversary—a day of barbarous infamy, but also of incredible courage, when the worst and best of humankind was witnessed worldwide—the question will be asked repeatedly. I was in the home my father built, the place where I grew up, taking care of my 90-year old mother. The gal who is now Myladylove called: "A jetliner crashed into the World Trade Center," she said—then, "Oh my God! Another one just hit the other tower!"
For the next several hours, no one understood fully what was going on. We simply watched—Mom and I, and the neighbors who came by, in case we hadn't yet gotten the news…and stayed a few minutes or an hour to watch the drama with us. The images were there, on live television, delivered by shocked and mystified and often near-broken reporters; history being wrought before our stunned eyes. Death and destruction none of us could have imagined a few hours beforehand. News of another plane down in Pennsylvania. And a fourth jet which had slammed into the Pentagon. One of the greatest cities on earth brought to its knees. Buildings so tall they once soared into the clouds collapsing while we watched. People running for their lives…others jumping to their death. Flames. Dust. Smoke. Terror. Panic. What was happening! And why? WHY!
The answers, when they eventually came, were worse than we would, on that first 9-11 morning, have imagined. But one thing I did realize as that horrific event unfolded…the United States of America, and probably the civilized world, would never again be the same.
A few days later I sent in a postscript to run with my Sunday outdoor column. The original column was about a day spent floating and fishing on a certain river—the same river, as it happens, on whose banks I now live. I initially intended to pull that piece from the newspaper. Who would want to read about fishing in the wake of such tragedy—a tragedy still very much ongoing as rescue workers dug frantically through rubble in search of living victims. Surely everyone hadn't perished!
Instead, I wrote a postscript.
For what it is worth, here's that addendum:
* * *
My column was written just before Tuesday’s terrorist attacks began in New York City and Washington D.C., and the hijacked airliner which crashed in Pennsylvania. In the aftermath of such a horrific national tragedy, any recounting of a day spent float-fishing a local river seems banal, a frivolous recitation of a mundane outing.
And so it is.
Yet that's not to say such commonplace diversions are without significance or value. Outdoor recreation, like organized sports, music, and arts, are pastimes which enrich our lives in ways beyond necessity, and will forever remain one of the greatest, most cherished rewards available to those living in a free society.
It’s also one of the things terrorists hate most about America and the American way of life, this notion of individual freedom. The idea that folks such as you and I might—without governmental permission—simply drive into the country and float down a rural stream purely for fun.
Since Tuesday’s terrorist strikes, I’ve often found myself worrying about future implications. What have I—what have we all—lost?Like most of my neighbors, I spent many hours following the attacks glued to my television—appalled by what I was witnessing, sickened by its ruthlessness, furiously angry at its barbaric perpetrators. There was a very real sense of personal violation. And doubtless a measure of our national innocence fell along with those two tall buildings.
But I haven’t lost my sense of wonder regarding the natural world. What’s more, I intend to exercise my personal freedom by rambling woods and waters whenever possible.
Terrorists can only win what we’re willing to surrender—and I’m not giving an inch.
In that context, I sincerely hope this outdoor column will find some small merit.