As I write this, two things are on my mind. Tomorrow’s upcoming day of remembrance for all who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks on our home turf by a fanatical regime dedicated to bringing America to her knees and the death just two days ago of a woman who embodied so much of what is good in this world.
Social media has been flooded by images, poems and memories of Queen Elizabeth II. For seventy years she reigned with grace, dignity and aplomb in a world filled with anger, hate and blame. While Britain is a democracy, still she represented all that was good about Britain's influence in our world. I am old enough to remember when she became the queen. Although our family didn’t have a television yet I was aware of it through pictures in the local papers and discussions among my parents and their friends. And Queen Elizabeth II has been there, a quiet, yet influential part of our world ever since. I’m an American, so she isn’t technically, ‘my’ queen, and yet . . . It felt like she would always be there and now she is gone. Her son, Charles III sits in her place and only time will tell if he will grace the monarchy with the charm and poise his mother showed for so many years. From tea with Paddington, to visits of state, her beauty and wisdom showed through and touched all who had the good fortune to spend time in her presence. The closest I ever came was watching the changing of the guard outside Windsor Castle while she was actually in residence, and staying at the bed and breakfast housed in an old gatehouse attached to the castle grounds. But just knowing she was part of the world I enjoyed was a blessing. She will be mourned by millions and dearly missed.
So too, are thousands still missed who perished on September 11, 2001. Can it really be twenty-one years since that day? It sometimes feels like it was just yesterday. Working in an environment without outside connectedness, my son’s phone call was my first shocking realization of what was happening in New York, but very quickly the market closed and my company began streaming CNN onto our desktops. The reality of the attack, the utter devastation, the images of those planes, of firemen rushing into buildings they would never come out of, people fleeing from waves of dust and later, the words overheard from the brave men on flight 93 who decided enough was enough. It all feels so fresh and real and awful, even all these years later. Maybe it's the harshness and raw hurt that stand out in our memories. I can only imagine my parents shock and disbelief on hearing FDR on the radio announcing a day that would live in infamy and how those words might have stuck in their minds for the rest of their years. Almost as if it were yesterday, I recall the stunned silence in the halls of my high school when we were dismissed early after our young and much loved president JFK’s assassination. These memories of lost innocence, however old we were when they happened, stand out in our souls as changing points in our lives. Social media will be awash once again with reminders of that awful day in September so recent to most of us and yet before all those in my grandchildren's generation were even born. I pray they will not be ripped so harshly from their naïveté as the generations before them.
So today and in the days to come, I remember a Queen who reigned with charity and poise, through good times and bad, in the face of personal tragedy and national turmoil. God speed her soul and may God bless Charles who now wears the crown and has to live up to the example she set.
And God bless all those who still mourn the loss of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters, sons, brothers and friends who lost their lives 21 years ago and all those who stepped forward to serve since and paid the price. Freedom has never been free and I write this in honor of all those who paid that price.
Take a moment, if you will, to be thankful for the blessings you have and to tell those who make your life the blessing it is, that you love and cherish them.