Monday, May 2, 2011

God Bless Freedom

Today feels different. Perhaps it has something to do with yesterday's big news with a successful U.S. Mission finally getting Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

As news leaked via Twitter (where else) before media news outlets confirmed a prosperous day in American History, the drama built to a feverish pitch. Everyone was real careful before locking in on the No.1 terrorist on our Most Wanted List. The way rumors spread, it was wise to use caution. When something like this happens, everything stops. It's already been a few years since they caught and executed Saddam Hussein. Now, on May 1, 2011 nearly 10 years after 9/11 that impacted so many innocent lives destroying families, we will not forget where we were. Just as we'll never forget that tragic day that caused heartache and panic.

It's hard to express what this means. As I watched the news with Dad downstairs, finally President Barack Obama made the trip to make an official announcement over an hour after he was expected to speak. The wait was worth it. Sure. We'll never get back that long sad day. All those lives lost. It's easy to reflect back and see where you were at that exact moment. I was supposed to be at work in Jersey City at Harborside Financial Center right across from the beloved Twin Towers. Every day, I made it a point to stop and look at them, admiring what our way of life is all about. Then, one day they vanished due to pure evil.

Oddly enough, as I crossed the Bayonne Bridge, Howard Stern announced it and to my amazement was a dark cloud of smoke coming from the Towers. A surreal scene as I saw plenty of police cars en route to 34th Street Bayonne Station, aware that there'd be no Light Rail service. A crowd gathered at the parking lot, including a co-worker Jason Riggati I knew. We stood and watched helplessly as the Twin Towers burned to the ground, killing thousands. Fresh in my memory are the screams and the, "Oh my God's," most of us echoed. The crazy aspect is that we were the lucky ones. We lived to tell about it.

Even as Obama read his well prepared statement, I felt sadness thinking back at how many died. So many NYPD, FDNY and soldiers who sacrificed for our cause. The families affected will never get back their lost ones. I can't imagine losing someone I loved. We've all had to deal with family deaths. Last year, it was a close friend who died in a car accident. It'll be a year on May 21 since Lyndsay Richburg left us. It still hurts. That kind of pain is different from a severe attack out of pure hatred and jealousy. I miss our friend dearly but know he's up there watching over us. I hope that's how Moms and Dads feel about their sons and daughters who are long gone. You can't erase memories. Wrap your arms around a memory and it's there forever. <<<333

Cherish every day. You never know when your time is up. While we can't get back September 11, 2001, we can move forward knowing our true heroes prevailed yesterday. Of course, the job is far from over with Al Qaeda still lurking along with many other evil doers. Something President Obama alluded to in a well thought out, concise statement:

For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol. The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.

In that moment, I felt humble with incredible pride. Just like Post 9/11 where we banded together for our cause, we again witnessed the best of America. As word spread during the Mets-Phillies game on ESPN, suddenly fans started patriotic chants of, "USA! USA!! USA!!!" Ironically, it was a classic game that went 13 innings before New York prevailed 2-1. I'm no Met fan like Hasan. But how can one not recall Mike Piazza's three-run home run versus the Braves at Shea in the first ballgame after 9/11? As emotional a moment as it gets. Being a Yankee fan, I'm still prouder of the 2001 team that fought valiantly winning all three games at the only true Stadium, featuring dramatic home runs from Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius and Derek Jeter. Even in defeat, the Yankees made our city proud.

How about all those who surrounded the White House and celebrated in the streets with patriotic American flags while singing the Pledge Of Allegiance and God Bless America? That was something else.

While we still talk about those two incredible baseball memories on both sides, for me I can recall being at the first sporting even following the terrible tragedy. It was a preseason game between the Devils and Rangers. I'll admit to having a heavy heart and even being a little afraid. But if we stayed home, the enemies win. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe in. The national anthem by John Amirante was extra special with Rangers and Devils all looking up at our beautiful red, white and blue and stars and stripes. It's a moment I can still see from our 411 seats. On my old computer, I saved a picture of that Star Spangled Banner. It will always be special. For one night, even the bitter Hudson rivalry took a back seat for a common ground. The same is echoed for an emotional home opener versus the Sabres where Mark Messier donned a FDNY helmet in a fitting tribute. Definitely one of the cooler sports moments considering the occasion.

This historic event yesterday isn't only about our great country. But about those who believe in peace and freedom. Our northern neighbors lent a helping hand to the fight on terror. For all his insanity, Don Cherry gets it right on Coach's Corner every Saturday night on Hockey Night In Canada, honoring those who represented his country. Next time, we're upset about something, let's remember that it's not the end of the world. Thank you to all our men and women who sacrifice for our cause. The true definition of heroes.

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