It was the Wednesday or Thursday after the worst ever terror attack on US soil. Our area, like many parts of the United States, was in shock. We did not know much yet, just the sketchy details of what lead to two planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York City, another into the Pentagon in Washington, and another that was diverted downwards into a field by the brave passengers who learned that it was headed for the capitol rotunda. We were in shock, yes. Were more attacks imminent? Would something happen in our town? Were we safe? Were we at war? So many questions, and precious few answers to ease the anxiety we all felt that day and the days that followed.
What did we do to keep ourselves sane that week, to keep the thoughts from screaming inside our heads and the tears from flowing down our cheeks? We sought out home, family, and churches and other houses of worship. We went for comfort food, warm gatherings with friends and family in places and with items that made us feel safe, secure and more at peace. And we did one more thing.
We wrapped ourselves in the flag. The American flag. Old Glory. The Stars and Stripes. Flag stickers quickly sold out everywhere. No flag decals for car windows could be found in stores, but were displayed proudly on almost every car you encountered on the street. Those flag sets that you can buy at Lowes? Sold faster that they could restock them. Flags popped up everywhere. It was amazing.
At my house, we had a large flag that had been flown over the capitol, and it had never been displayed after that. I found it, unfolded it carefully, and then with great pride and great care managed to hang it on the front porch of the house, in front of the double set of French doors. It took up about a third of the facade of the house, and wrapped us like a red, white and blue security blanket for weeks if not months after that. We displayed it as a point of pride. We displayed it as a celebration that the country was still sound and running and cohesive and strong, even after those magnificent buildings imploded, sending showers of concrete and steel and glass and bits of paper, thousands of bits of paper, swirling into the streets of Manhattan. We displayed it as an answer, as a rebuke of terror and fear and hate. We displayed it as the embodiment of the American spirit, still strong even after losing so many of us on that dazzlingly bright blue September morning.
As Abraham Lincoln might comment if he were with us today, we are now met on another great field of battle, not one with planes used as bombs but one that sickens and kills the most vulnerable of us, a battlefield that starts with an invisible enemy and leads to the whoosh whoosh whoosh of a ventilator and the last FaceTime call a weeping relative will ever make. So many questions, still so few answers, though we are further along than we were just fifteen months ago. In this column, I have been talking for a year about the grief, the pain, the depression, the anxiety, the reentry, and the coping skills that have been involved with seeing us through this worst pandemic in a century in America. Many of you have been ill. Many of you have lost someone close to you.
Now, on this Flag Day, we are again in need of a rallying cry and a symbol or two that will help us go the last mile to make it through the last phase of this viral pandemic. We need to proudly display the flags of knowledge, good judgment, well thought out decisions, and good will. We need to wrap ourselves in the red, white and blue of science, teamwork and determination. We need, just as we did on those days after 9-11, to get the facts, grieve if we must, fight because we have to, and move forward in lockstep as only America can to see the dawn through the settling ash and mist of illness and death.
On this Flag Day, be proud, be compassionate, be helpful, be smart, and be resolved that there is nothing, given enough time, resources and indomitable will, that Americans cannot do. The end of the pandemic in our country is in sight. Carpe diem.