Six years ago yesterday, September 11, 2001, our nation suffered a major catastrophe. Thousands of our fellow citizens lost their lives. Perhaps what made yesterday a bit more poignant is that, like September 11th of six years ago, it was also a Tuesday.
Six years ago today, as we woke up and the details began to unfold, amidst our grief and tears there was an underlying resolve and we found ourselves pulling together as a nation in a way that epitomizes the American spirit.
Yesterday I spend some time talking with a group of homeless people that I know. It’s a small group of five individuals who are made up of two couples and one single man. Both men who have significant others share an additional bond: both are veterans, having served this nation as U.S. Marines and receiving Honorable Discharges.
Although they do associate with other homeless persons, this small group of homeless persons tends to keep to themselves, avoiding those homeless who drink and use drugs. A couple of them are working. One of the others, does recycling at night. They all work together to help support their little "family." Both of the couples are currently seeking housing. The single man is currently seeking employment. And they hope that within a month or two to be off of the streets.
As we sat and spoke, the conversation turned to the events of six years ago; each of them recalling what they where, what they were doing, the emotions that they felt at the time. As we spoke I noted that their voices became softer, sadder, and reflective. I also noted that none of them were homeless at the time.
One of the women had been driving to visit her mother when she heard the news broadcasts. Her husband was working when he heard the news. The other woman had been cleaning their home when her significant other called and told her to turn on the television because there had been a horrible plane accident: an airplane had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. The third man had been busy opening up the business where he worked.
I was struck by one similarity they all shared: despite being homeless and being looked upon by mainstream society as outcasts and derelicts, these five persons still have a deep love for this country – and a sense of patriotism that many might not believe that a homeless person could have.
On September 12, 2001, we knew that our nation had been attacked. We were no longer afforded the comfort of believing that the world was a safe place to be. We learned that terrible things can happen to innocent people. And, as a nation, we braced ourselves for the future.
What I learned yesterday is that patriotism isn’t about social or economic status. It’s something that is a part of who we are. Homeless or non-homeless – it is seared within our hearts and souls. And that makes us all that much more alike than perhaps we are willing to admit.
…Six years ago today, the younger of the two former Marines, drove down to the recruiting station, presented his DD-214 (military discharge papers) to the Marine recruiting officer and tried to re-enlist, knowing well that this country would take military action against those who had orchestrated this horrific act of violence against our country. He was willing to put his life on the line once again to serve this nation.
Because of his age, his offer of re-enlistment was respectfully declined.