Bluefield Daily Telegraph
On a beautiful pre-autumn day, her colors whip against the wind. Red, white and blue — flapping in the breeze against a cerulean sky dotted with marshmallow clouds. It is Americana in her truest form, displayed on a flagpole in a front yard of a West Virginia home.
The Stars and Stripes represent centuries of struggle, centuries of war. It shines as a beacon of freedom — one that perseveres due to the sacrifice of thousands of men and women in camouflage who gave their lives for the good of our country.
In the years after 9/11, tattered strips of fabric with frayed edges swayed with summer’s dying winds. The red, white and blue colors had faded — years of sun and rain and snow turning the once-vibrant shades into dulled and mottled hues.
They were not the colors that generally came to mind when one mulled America’s spirit. Well-worn flags and bows do not typify the swell of patriotism that welled up from the Northeast and surged across the mountains, valleys and flatlands 12 years ago this week.
It was a different time then. And we are different people.
A decade and two years after the terror attacks on the United States, the wounds remain fresh for many. Pictures from the fateful day bring chill bumps; video clips elicit silent, poignant prayers.
Fifty years from now, those of us who watched the attacks broadcast live will share the horror of 9/11 with youngsters in our family. We will describe the planes, the towers, the destruction. We will attempt to explain the human anguish and agony as thousands of Americans grieved for their lost loved ones.
Mothers, fathers, children, grandparents and uncles. No one was spared on that horrific day when madmen decided to attack the greatest country on earth.
While images, news reports and other historical documents will linger on to be studied by countless other generations, it will be hard to describe, to teach, to convey the emotion that swelled in all Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
Sorrow, anger, despair, shock, rage, grief, amazement ... the list could go on and on. As a country founded on principles of democracy, which prides itself on diplomacy, we weren’t prepared for a sneak attack. Many of us were naive, unable to fathom how — or why — a group of terrorists would choose to carry out such a horrendous and vicious plan against innocent civilians.
But the rose-colored glasses were shattered that day, and we became a country of people keenly aware of our place in the world.
And for a moment in time we were a nation deeply united. No Democrats or Republicans. No far-left liberals or right-leaning tea party.
We were proud Americans, bound by a shared pain.
Several wars have been fought since that fateful day. Our troops in the Middle East have battled bravely against a cunning and atypical enemy.
Two of the Middle East madmen — Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein — are dead, but that hasn’t stopped the hatred or the bloodshed. Countless others continue the fight.
Meanwhile, we continue to combat terrorists on the domestic front. Homegrown or foreign-born, the threat remains the same. American lives are at stake. We have beefed up U.S. security but at a price that risks America’s freedoms. Where do we draw the line?
Body scans at airports and high-risk alerts spurred by carelessly abandoned backpacks. Personal liberties versus the potential for harm.
We wade in and out of the gray area as we attempt to maintain freedoms while protecting our people. It’s a slippery slope.
Tattered ribbons, frayed flags. Many believe such weather-worn icons of America should be replaced — that U.S. pride and patriotism should shine brightly, or not at all.
Royal blue, cherry red, crisp white. Old Glory, in all her glory, flapping in the breeze. Sparkling stars on a decorative mailbox. A child’s refrigerator artwork, showing a map of the United States decorated in Crayola’s most vibrant shades.
Maybe the ragged flags and ribbons should be taken down — placed in a memory box or disposed of in a dignified way.
Or maybe not. Perhaps, for a time, they should continue to hang to serve as a reminder of that terrible tragedy 4,380 days ago, and the days that have followed since.
Like ribbons hanging in the elements, we too have weathered scars.
We all enjoy patriotism when it’s pretty and perky, when its beauty illuminates the pride we all feel in our country. But, at times, it’s thought provoking to see patriotism in all its honesty.
Torn, worn, muted and stained — it is a reminder of the road we have traveled, and the journey that lies ahead.
Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at BDTPerry.