September 12th, 2008

The Zombie

National Anthem

September 11 -  I don't know what to say.  Ever since 2001, this date has...well, I just don't know what I'm supposed to say whenever September 11th rolls around.  I don't want to be maudlin or, worse, seen as somehow capitalizing on the tragic events of this day seven years ago, but I also can't just ignore all of it, either.  I can't even report my own feelings anymore, since the day dredges up every emotion from sadness, remorse, and anger, to pride, fear, and appreciation.  And it's not like I was in New York or Washington at the time back then.  I was in a little town in Wisconsin, living my little life far from the threat of personal danger...but I still felt like I was personally attacked, that I was in immanent peril...that "they" were trying to kill me.  Like everyone, I was glued to the TV, alternating between crying and calling anyone I knew who even lived in a state near the attack sites.  Everyone else seemed to be doing much the same.  For example, have I ever told you that my wife had just returned from a week-long trip to New York City?  She had been home for a while, but people still called the house to check on her, just in case.  For most of us, thankfully, we experienced those events from afar, but still somehow intimately.  We watched, and we wondered.  What do we do now?  What will happen next?  What will become of our country?  That reminds me of an earlier time of crisis for our nation, when another observer far from the danger watched and wondered those same things.  In the immediate aftermath of the attack, he took pen to paper and wrote down those questions which filled him with fear, pride, and the other complicated emotions of the event.  I know you've heard his words before, but "listen" to some of them again, and remember how you felt seven years ago...

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.  Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

From his perch as on a British prisoner ship, Francis Scott Key couldn't tell what was going on as the attack on Fort McHenry went on into the night.  Fearing for his own fate, and the fate of the United States, all he knew was that if the cannons were still firing, there was still hope.  In the end, he asked the question which we Americans have to answer every generation; not just whether the red, white, and blue symbol is still flying, but does it still represent a free and brave nation?  We will always be vulnerable to attack.  Unfortunately, that's just how it is.  That we are attacked is "proof through the night" that we're still here.  "The question," then, asks us to really think about who "we" are.  I think you do have to be free to be brave, and you definitely have to be brave to be free.  I guess I try to remember that when this date comes up every year.  I imagine that Key felt something similar every time the anniversary of the attack on Fort McHenry rolled around.  That was September 13th.  Thankfully, he knew what to say.