Things have changed

A month after Sept. 11, 2001, a young man named Dillon sat in my lap, “helping” me with a catalog of antique gun parts whilst his mom Candy and Miss Rhonda worked on a sewing project.

We had a very serious discussion about this musket or that rifle, the type of discussion that one can only have with a two-year-old. He decided he wanted to have one particular model of flintlock “when I join the Army.”

Pretty soon, Dillon will be issued a much newer version of a military rifle than any flintlock; he didn’t join the Army, either, but is instead is undergoing training to become a Marine.

It seems hard to believe that so much time has passed since that beautiful September morning was ruined; I had things to do that day, important things, like going to visit my dad’s grave and waiting on a call about a new job and filing a handful of freelance stories. I was looking forward to maybe spending a little time with my wife at the radio station, where she would do her own things throughout the day – reading the Country Store, obituaries, the livestock market reports, and playing music. We had, if I recall correctly, made some tentative plans to do something with Dillon’s parents and his sister the coming weekend.

My brother had things he was doing as well – feeding the cats, walking his dog, then going to work at the Schindler Elevator plant, where he was on the evening shift.

A piece left over from the new walkway at the Pentagon. My brother was one of those who helped make the walkway that would replace the one destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001. The employees of the firm were all presented similar pieces as a gesture of thanks.

But things changed that morning.

A bunch of cowards inspired by a false prophet murdered a bunch of innocent people, people who also had things to do – some were going to work, some going home, some heading on vacation, some missing their spouses and children. They took advantage of the fact that we have a free country, and murdered several thousand Americans. They also indirectly led to the death and injury of a lot of other Americans, warriors who volunteered to protect their country and ended up in places many had never heard of.

A lot of things changed that day, and many will never be the same, instead having become part of the new normal. We are still involved in a war against an idea, rather than a country, something our country has never had to do before. It’s led to young men and women like Dillon and my Nevoo John’s girl joining a military where some of their fellow soldiers are the age of their parents. Had John not been wounded so badly – again – I am fairly sure he would still be in uniform.

That’s one of the other things that have changed since 9/11, as we now call it.

You notice I don’t include my great-niece’s name, or many references to Dillon’s family. It ain’t because I don’t want to brag on them – I’d love to do so.

Leaving some information out has become habit; once upon a time, the canned announcements we received at newspapers and radio stations included a service member’s family and hometown. Now, because of the snake-bellied tactics of the enemy, it’s safer not to mention much about even one’s own family members, since anyone with a computer and motivation can find out specific information about someone they wish to harm.

Like I noted – things have changed.

While my father didn’t fight in World War II, many of his friends did; I grew up hearing their stories, and the enemies referred to with an enmity, even three decades later, that most folks today would find shocking. Now, don’t get me wrong – there was some mutual respect for the average soldier doing his job for the Germans or Japanese—but there was still a smoldering unforgiveness and a suspicion that, however misplaced, never went away with some of those gentlemen.

But things have changed, and now those defending our country are expected to “understand” the enemy and “respect” his traditions. We are not allowed to use terms that might be deemed derogatory by those who seek to kill us and wipe our nation off the face of the earth. And while I do not support hatred of any kind, that doesn’t mean I am suggesting we all cuddle up and sing Kumbaya with those who, I say again, desire to kill Americans.

Yet there are those who argue that we are somehow to blame for the attacks of 9/11. I’m still trying to figure out that logic, but when I ask for an explanation, all I hear is accusations of racism and religious intolerance and other harpy-esque nonsense. I fully understand that there are plenty of good people in the countries that harbor and nurture terrorism, and I understand that there are plenty of countries our own shouldn’t tolerate, since those countries openly or discreetly support the same terrorists (as well as other behavior that I find wrong). We have elected officials as well as nincompoops descrying America and defending those who wish to kill Americans.

Yes, a lot of things have changed.

But a lot of things haven’t.

This is still the greatest country in the world, which is one reason even idiots who hate it can stand on a street corner and pronounce their hatred. We who love her can stand on the same corner and show her our love and loyalty, as well.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is that when the chips are down, Americans will help other Americans, no matter how we disagree. Look at the reactions to Hurricanes Matthew, Harvey and soon, Irma. Look who stepped up, and who will continue to step up, to help those truly in need. It won’t be the folks pouring filth on the country that gives them free speech and the chance to succeed.

A lot of things have changed, but a lot are still the same. There is a whole new generation of young people who love their country and wish to carry on their families’ traditions of protecting America and the millions of people they will never meet – even those who choose to love the enemy, and hate the country that shields them.

I doubt the day will come again, in my lifetime, anyway, when America will be as safe and snug and yes, smug, as we once were. That has changed – but this is still America, we are still a free people, at least as long as we choose to be, and those are things I hope and pray never, ever change.