Each morning I start my commute and, no matter what time of year it is, the sky is still dark and the streets are still empty as I wind my way through rural South Carolina. This morning was no different. As my headlights cut through the last vestiges of the night sky, I came to one of my favorite parts of my drive, the main street of Inman, SC the little town I claim as home. I don’t think anything personifies small town America more than Inman. Lined with small businesses on one side and a well-used railroad track on the other, the main street of Inman sits in front of the old mill where so many once worked. During each holiday season, the streets are decorated with the appropriate decor, from Christmas trees and lights, to pumpkins and hay bales. As I crossed over the railroad tracks and began my brief drive through Inman this morning, my eyes became slightly misty. Lining the sidewalk in front of each storefront was a large, American flag, and as I slowly drove through that quiet town in the dark of the morning, my headlights illuminated each flag one after the other.
I was 12 when 9/11 happened. I have only a few memories, and they are not very meaningful, so when I began to prepare yesterday for this morning’s radio show, I resolved to spend the entire two hours remembering September 11, 2001 partly for myself. During the show, I spent time recounting the events of 9/11 and sharing stories of some of the heroes, some familiar and some not. At one point, I read a quote by Bill Clinton from his speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on the 10-year anniversary, and, politics aside, I couldn’t help but think the final sentence was a perfect summation of 9/11, “. . .ordinary people, given no time at all to decide, did the right thing.”
Stories included Heather Penney’s story of undaunted courage, Keith Fairben’s story, a young man who died with his arms still around the woman he was carrying to safety, and Ricky Rescorla who rescued more than 2,700 lives. His last words to his wife were, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I've never been happier. You made my life.” I concluded the show this morning with George W. Bush’s impromptu speech at Ground Zero. When his bullhorn quit functioning properly, someone in the crowd said, “I can’t hear you!” to which George W. Bush responded with the glorious words, “I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Subsequently, these chanted words rose into the air, “USA! USA! USA!” Rippling outward in an awe inspiring moment of solidarity, unity and hope rose over the land as iconically as the American flag over Iwo Jima in 1945.
With those mighty words echoing in my ears, I made my way back home, driving familiar back roads now teeming with light and life. As I passed each flag lining that small, main street, I prayed. I prayed for the families of those who gave so much, for those still suffering because of their sacrifice, for a country hurting from the fissures wrought by anger and ignorance, and for a people needing to remember and hear the sound of unity and hope once again.
This mornings podcast can be found in the ITunes Store under Christian Worldview with Tony and Hannah “Remembering 9-11”. Our two hour show is available for free and is downloaded as two one hour episodes each day.
Hannah R. Miller
Co-host, Christian Worldview with Tony and Hannah