I was honored when I was asked to give the closing remarks for the Richland School District Two 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. The reason is that the part of the building, the Pentagon, where the plane landed would’ve been my office.
You see, at that point, I was still on active duty. The Pentagon was undergoing renovation. We had moved out of our offices and were in temporary offices. I retired before the offices were finished, but some of my colleagues had begun to move in, which is why the casualty rate was so low because that part of the building had just been reopened.
I remember where I was as I reflect on what this day meant.
I was a new teacher in my first year at Gaither High School. And I remember one of my colleagues came to me and asked, “Did you know this had happened?” And I said, “What happened?”
As the day went on, students asked questions, as our resource officer said, ”Are we going to be all right?” And the fact that they all knew that I was retired military, everybody wanted to come to me. Why? Because they wanted to be comforted that America would be okay and that we were okay as a nation. We learned many lessons that day.
We stand here honoring the lives that were lost. When we have events, one of our traditions in the military is that we will have a table for our fallen soldiers because we honor our comrades who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy.
But I want to challenge us today to broaden our perspective. While we lost over 3,000 people that day, the impact on their families, friends, colleagues, and our nation goes beyond their sacrifices.
9/11 is not just a day for us to remember but a day for us to reflect and move forward. I want to share a quote that I read this morning. I prayed about the words I wanted to say and the message I wanted to convey.
As an educator, I look at everything as a teaching point. Everything is something that we should be learning from, and we should be sharing and helping others. So, I will read this quote to you because this is the teaching point to me.
Dwight Curry said, “Of all our pleasures, our most incredible luxury is the freedom to choose. We have a choice about how we behave, which means we can offer stability and grace.” Why is that so important?
Today, we live in challenging times where grace is not always extended to people. So, think about it from the perspective of people’s sacrifice on 9/11 to run into a building. They ran into the building despite who was in it. It doesn’t matter what color, race, religion, or gender. None of that is essential.
When soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines step on the battlefield, they fight for us all, our nation. When I look across the group of people standing here, I see many different people.
So I want to ask you today, I want to challenge you today as we move through this remembrance of 9/11, to remember what it was that they were sacrificing for. It was for us to carry on their legacy of service and sacrifice. That is what we are here to celebrate today, what they did for us.
And as we move forward, what are we willing to do for each other?
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent those of my employer or any local, state, or federal government.