I cried a lot yesterday. The tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks brought back all of the memories and emotions of that day. Each time Taps played, I felt each note in my very core. It’s amazing how music has that power to physically jar you more so than just words or images. Along with the rest of the country, I spent yesterday remembering. Along with the rest of my family, however, I remembered even more.
My late grandfather, Robert H. Brumell (for whom my son is named), was born on September 11th. He passed away only five years ago, so his absence on his birthday brings memories of him rushing back for our family. Mixing the emotions of personal loss with national grief made yesterday a long day.
My grandfather was a World War II veteran, as just about every man of his generation was. It’s amazing how that one fact underlines the difference in a generation. I know there was an initial rush of patriotism after September 11, 2001 that brought with it a surge of enlistments. But it was short-lived and paled in comparison to the hordes of young men who signed up for military service after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Was the genocidal nature of anti-Semetic, anti-Christian terrorists so different from that of Nazi Germany? Was it because we no longer had a country to fight, only individuals hiding behind their anonymity? How could a world that has grown closer through technology render such an apathetic, detached citizenry?
These are the kinds of questions I wish I could discuss with my grandfather. We didn’t always agree, but no one loved a good debate more than we did. I wish I knew what he would say about the world five years after he left it.
There are some things I know he would still argue. You must educate yourself on the truth; do not trust a public speaker or politician to tell you what to think. You must exercise your right to vote. If you don’t use your voice, you may lose it. Step up and hold a public office, no matter how small. Learn about your community and do your civic duty. Be open to change, but don’t forget lessons learned from history. Be accepting of others no matter their background, race or religion; there is something to be learned from everyone. Don’t waffle. Hold strong to your beliefs and be willing to fight for them. Honor and nurture relationships in your family. When everything else is gone, family will remain.
I count my blessings that I did not lose any family members in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. My grandfather was 85 when he passed away; he lived a full life. But we still miss him. For my family, September 11th brings back horrible memories of that tragic day in our history, but also sentiments of love and loss for my grandfather.
Five years of loss for my family. Ten years of loss for so many others. Let us all do our best to make our loved ones proud and never forget.
We miss you, Gramp.
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