Remembering September 11

national_park_service_9-11_statue_of_liberty_and_wtc_fire

Today marks the twelfth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, Pentagon, and the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, September 11, 2001.

Personally I spent the day reliving memories of that day. I’ve written about it before and don’t need to repeat myself.

I can only imagine what those who went through that day as part of the chaos, and the families of those killed, must go through, every day. Today has to be the worst.

So today I am filled with resolve that I will do whatever I can to make sure this never happens again. Yes, I know that’s bold talk for a one-eyed fat man, but by that I mean I will be ever alert, ever vocal, ever resolute. I’m not sure our country is any safer or better off than we were on September 10, 2001. I want to think we are, after all, there have been no successful attacks of any size on American soil since.

I also want to think the enormous expenditure of men and resources has bought us something, even if it’s experience points.

So what I resolve is to go forward and make America better, at least my part. To be alert, to be prepared, to be involved, to be armed, to be informed.

Let’s roll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Retiring A Flag On Flag Day

flag2bday2b2011Today is Flag Day in the United States, in which we honor the symbol of our country. It is also the anniversary of the founding of the US Army in 1775.

I wanted to share with you a story that involves both.

I fly two flags at my home, most of the time. The largest one I started flying on September 11, 2001, and has flown continually since then, lighted at night. I will always fly this flag.

The other flag is a smaller flag, attached to my mailbox post. It is flown to honor my brother, SFC Michael Lindsay, who has served in the US Army since the fall of 1991.

Mike

The flag flies on my mailbox whenever he serves in harm’s way in defense of me, you, and our country. As you can imagine, he has had his share of such assignments. In fact, in his almost 22 years of service, I think he has served only about 6 years where he wasn’t in a combat unit – 3 in the Old Guard, performing funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and 3 as a drill instructor, jump school instructor, and Pathfinder instructor at Fort Benning. So, I have had a flag on my mailbox for most of the last 22 years.

Whenever I need to replace the smaller flag, I keep the old one as long as it isn’t too torn or faded to display. In 22 years I’ve kept 8 or so to display in my yard on national holidays. They are in my yard today, as you can see by the photo at the top of this post.

This is a special Flag Day for me, because I get to retire the mailbox flag, probably for good. My brother returned from his third tour of the middle east recently, and has been reassigned to the training brigade at Fort Dix, NJ, where he will prepare group troops that are deploying. Hence, he won’t be in a unit that could be deployed, barring a zombie apocalypse. His next assignment, we hope, will be to teach ROTC at a college in Florida, which would be an awesome thing for future reserve officers, as much as it would be for him and his family. That will likely be the post from which he retires.

My brother went in the Army in 1991, to get money for college. He scored well enough in the entrance testing to get into the Airborne, and he found out, to the delight of our whole family, that he enjoyed the work. You see, my family has a gene that, if untreated, makes us highly susceptible to being huge assholes. As it turns out, this isn’t such a  bad thing in the army. My brother found out that, in his words, being an asshole saves lives in combat. In fact, he is most proud of the fact that his commanding officers have actually used the word “asshole” in more that one of his annual reviews.

He has mostly spent his time in the 82nd Airborne Division, and he’s been places and done things that we’ve all heard about, like Kosovo, Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As an example, when Jimmy Carter and Colin Powell were in the office of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995, trying to convince him to leave by pointing out that the 82nd Airborne was in the air coming his way, that was my brother they were talking about, flying their way in a big can of whup-ass.

Too, he has done things, and trained for things, that he’s told me about, on the back porch over a beer, that never made the papers. Some of it happened, and some of it was called off. Suffice it to say that, as an American, I am proud of the things our leaders have done, and have been willing to do, for our freedom. I’m also proud of the things they planned but decided not to do. Maybe, one day, these things will make the papers, or someone will write a book.

In any case, one day soon, when my brother’s family finally moves into their new home at Fort Dix, I am going to take a bunch of American flags in a box to the post office, and ship them to him. I don’t have to fly them on the mailbox any more. They are his now. They always were. He’s earned them, and he’s earned my thanks and respect.

An Open Letter to Truthers

On this anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, America pauses to remember those who died at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and in the fields of Pennsylvania, at the hand of Islamic terrorists. Last year, I wrote about where I was on that day, so that’s not my topic today.

Instead, I am going to put in print what I’ve felt for quite some time. Then, I won’t speak of it again, because it doesn’t warrant the energy or attention.

There are some people who believe that the attacks on our country on September 11 were part of some government conspiracy. Some believe, simply, that George Bush did it. I’m not going to discuss the reasons, because, frankly, it’s not worth it.

Now, I’m not talking about the government having unconnected intelligence suggesting an attack was imminent. That’s happened throughout history, at it’s more a sign of human frailty than of conspiracy or malice.

No, I’m talking about people who believe that someone spent months and months planting explosives in buildings in New York, then set them off with national TV cameras rolling.

Here is what I want to say to those people:

If you honestly believe that the government of the country you live in would kill almost 3,000 of its own people, yet, you continue to live here, then you are either insane, lying, or a complete coward.

What do sane people do when they believe their government kills its own citizens? How can you find out? Go to south Florida and ask. There are strong, successful people there who believed that their government was killing its own citizens, and covering it up. Why did they believe that? Because, in Cuba, it happened. And they gave up everything they had, and got the hell out of their country as fast as they could, and moved their families here.

If I lived in a country where I believed the government was capable of half of the atrocious acts that some of the conspiracy websites spout, then I would do whatever it took, spend whatever I had, to move my family as far from this country as I could. I would leave behind everything. Because that kind of country isn’t worth living in.

So, if you believe in a 9/11 conspiracy, and you still live here, I don’t want to hear it. Move your sorry ass to South America. Until then, we have nothing to discuss.

For that matter, even after that.

Remembering What You Can’t Remember

I spent most of the day on Sunday, September 11, remembering. I watched some of the documentaries on what happened that day, because it’s important to know, so we can stop it from happening again.

I didn’t watch too much of any of the observances, the speeches, the tributes. Those are important, but I think I do that every day, by committing to protecting myself and my family. Before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, my self defense commitment was spotty at best. Now, it’s every day.

The two things the TV shows and retrospectives and tributes couldn’t capture were the two things I felt the most on September 11, and in the days and months that followed.

The first was the incessant bombardment of what had happened. The American media doesn’t report any more, they beat us over the head with news events. After the first two hours, there seemed to be nothing new to report, yet the new outlets kept reporting it. Over and over. The same thing, all the time.

What could not be remembered, therefore, was the incessant stress and fear and worry we all felt, for the days and weeks and months after the attacks. Part of me is glad we can’t get that back, because it sucked to live like that.

The second thing I felt in those months after, was anger. When I think about the attacks, I continue to feel it. I let some of this out on my son yesterday, and I owe him an apology. He didn’t deserve that.

I’m angry that we responded to this attack by fighting back on the terrorists terms, instead of by using the best of what America has. We’ve corrected that a little, with the use of unmanned drones and the like. But we still fight them on their turf, on their terms.

The rantings of one person does no good, though.

So, I did what I could do. I cooked pork barbecue, and I cleaned my guns and did an ammo inventory. I didn’t get a chance to shoot, thanks to the length of time it takes to cook good barbecue.

But I enjoyed what I could. And for that, I am thankful.

When the World Changed – Part 2

Yesterday, I told about how things at work changed on September 11, 2001.

When I got home that day, things changed, too.

We had moved back to the Atlanta area a few months before, and we were renting a friend’s house until we decided where we wanted to buy. We hadn’t personalized this house very much. But when I got home that day, the first thing I did was put up a flag pole on the front porch, and fly an American flag. I left the porch light on to illuminate it at night.

When we moved into our new home a few months later, I installed a spotlight to shine on the flag. It flies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve replaced it three times in 10 years, and only one flag has been worn enough to warrant disposal. I’ve kept one flag, and I’ve given the others to the local Boy Scout troop.

I also fly a flag from my mailbox to honor my brother Michael, who serves in the US Army. I started doing that when he enlisted 19 years ago. These smaller flags only last about 9 months on the mailbox before I have to replace them. I keep the best of the old flags to fly in my yard on national holidays, like in the picture above.

(I don’t know if my brother reads this blog, but I’m going to give away a secret – when my brother retires from the Army in 6 years, I’m going to box up all the old flags I’ve been flying and send them to him. I’ll tell you more about him at a future time.)

Does this mean I’ve become more patriotic since September 11? I don’t think so. I think I’ve stopped taking that patriotism for granted. I’m not a covert patriot now, I am overt.

I’ve also made changes to how I look at personal security. I now carry a gun just about everywhere, not just “when I think I might need it.” Like most people, my concept of “when I might need it” changed on September 11.

Do I worry about terrorist attacks now, after September 11, and Mumbai, and the other attacks since then? I don’t worry about them or change what I do because of them, per se. I know it sounds corny, but if I change how I live my life, then the terrorists have won. And I know that’s not true.

Maybe it’s just being 10 years older. I know I am 10 years wiser.

When the World Changed – Part 1

Photograph by Richard Drew

Photograph by Richard Drew

On September 11, 2001, I was plant manager of a specialty chemical plant in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. This plant used railroad car quantities of very hazardous materials, but like most plants in the industry, our safety programs made it a pretty safe place to work, and the record proved it.

That day there was supposed to be a regularly scheduled plant managers’ meeting at the home office, two hours’ drive away. When it was obvious that the planes were part of an attack, I turned around and returned to the plant. We had no idea if this was part of something much larger, and how much of America was targeted, and I needed to be there instead of in a meeting.

The thing I remember most about the drive back to the plant was the lack of police cars. I was able to drive as fast as I needed to, since all the local police were obviously going elsewhere.

That day, I learned the value of knowing the people who worked for me. One of the things I had done when I took the job as plant manager was to read everyone’s personnel files, and I paid particular attention to those with prior military or law enforcement service. So I knew I had several trained former servicemen working that day. One of our plant operators had been an Army Ranger in Desert Storm. We had another operator take his place in operations, and I had him walk the plant perimeter fence, looking for signs of intrusions.

One of my supervisors had been a Navy SEAL in a previous life*, so I asked him if he would man the front gate. Normally, the front gate was open, since there was no way to drive straight through into the plant without someone opening another gate in between. On 9/11 that changed, and that gate has been closed and manned every day since.

He asked me if it was okay for him to move his personal car up by the gate. I knew why he was asking, since I also had gotten to know people well enough to know who kept guns in their cars. Since I did, I didn’t see any problem with others doing so.

I told him to do what he needed to do, and I asked him if he thought he might need an assistant at the gate. “Not if I can get to my car, I won’t.”

Other than the sense of fear, anger, and uncertainty that everyone felt that day, at the plant we had no problems, and we never really had any problems after that. I did hold a quick plant meeting that afternoon before shift change, to remind everyone to keep their minds on their jobs, for safety reasons.

The chemical industry eventually instituted a lot of extra security measures, some of which were needed, and some of which probably were not.

For me, the lesson driven home was to know my people and their backgrounds, and to train everybody in how to protect themselves and the plant. One thing was sure – things would never be the same.

*A lot of people claim to have been a Navy SEAL. One advantage of reading people’s personnel files is it included their form DD214. This guy really had been a SEAL.