A Walk to Remember

Farmgirls everywhere know that “Freedom Isn’t Free” … it has a price. On September 11, 2001 we all discovered just how precious – and fragile – this freedom can be. In a spontaneous act of solidarity, all Americans – regardless of political affiliation – came together as a nation after the tragedy that touched every single one of us. Join the Mountain Farmgirl as she takes part in this year’s 9/11 Freedom march in A Walk to Remember….

The day that the World Trade Center towers came down was a defining moment in history … marking events that came either before or after, similar to dates and events recorded  B.C. and A.D.  We can all remember certain events that define time for us. Some are universally renowned, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor; others have personal significance, such as ‘Before Marriage’ or ‘After Kids’!  


I’m old enough to remember when JFK was shot. I was in the 4th grade, sitting at a desk toward the back of our classroom when a voice came over the loudspeaker telling us that there had been a terrible shooting and President Kennedy was dead. School would be closing early, and we needed to proceed immediately in an orderly fashion to our buses, which were waiting for us outside. At the time I wasn’t all that aware of the enormous impact of the event, but I’ll never forget the moment I learned of it. The classroom got so silent you could hear a pin drop, my teacher, Mrs. Clarke, started to cry. It was a defining moment in history, as well as in my life. I can vividly picture the scene to this day.


The day the World Trade towers collapsed by a pre-meditated act of terrorism was a similar, earth-shatteringly important moment that none of us will ever forget. For me, it was a typical home school day for our family. Having taken our morning walk and canoe ride around the lake pretty early, we had finished up breakfast and the kitchen was already cleaned. A vividly blue sky was pierced by the first of the red maple leaves which had already started to turn outside our front windows. My boys and husband were in our open living area, having a chess lesson from their chess coaches Jan and Peter, both natives of the Czech Republic who were living with us that year. Our nine year old daughter, who kept ‘artist hours’ even back then, was sound asleep, having been to bed probably only hours before. And Joshua, our youngest at barely 5 years old, was playing with blocks on the floor. This left me a few moments to sit in my pantry on the window seat with a cup of tea, in a rare moment of solitude to plan the day’s lessons. I can still remember the sound of the phone ringing, which brought me out of the reverie, and my mother’s voice on the other end bearing some shocking news.

  
“A plane flew into the World Trade Center about half an hour ago”, she said. At that point, we all thought it was just a freaky, isolated and tragic accident. Not having a television of our own, my mom would always keep me informed of important world events. I could hear her TV blaring  in the background, as she continued to fill me in on the details she was watching. Then there was dead silence. “OMG! Another plane just hit the South tower.”   This, obviously, was not a coincidence; something was very, very wrong. In the course of the next hour the Pentagon would become the third casualty of the terrorists, and the passengers of American Airlines Flight 93 would take control of their hijacked plane, sacrificing themselves in a field outside Pittsburgh before it would hit the next target, the White House.


I quickly informed my family of what was happening. Our country was in crisis, and the state of our personal worlds were as well, as we thought of all the many friends of ours who worked in the towers themselves or in the vicinity of lower Manhattan. Living less than 90 minutes from New York, many of our church friends were either firemen or police officers who worked  in New York City. Barb, one of my closest relatives who is more like a sister to me than the first cousin she actually is, worked as a Women’s Bond Trader directly across the street from the towers. Truth be told, we knew dozens of people who were there at Ground Zero that day, hitting all too close to home for my family and me, and made even more so because we had been all there just two days before!


The occasion was my mother’s birthday, and her brother owned a sailboat which was temporarily harbored on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, waiting for its resident crew to sail it to its winter home in Florida.  My uncle had been telling my mom that we should all take advantage of the opportunity while it was still there, and so on the sunny autumn morning of September 9, 2001, we set sail for an unforgettable adventure around Manhattan island.  In addition to the full-time crew, the cast of characters on this golden excursion were my brother and his family, our Czech chess coaches Jan and Peter, my husband, our four kids and myself. As we rounded the tip of Manhattan that beautiful day we seemed close enough to the World Trade towers to almost touch them!  Before heading up the east side past the Brooklyn Bridge, however, we took a little detour across New York Harbor, circling the Statue of Liberty, a very moving sight.  We snapped photographs galore, not knowing that in just two days’ time they would document iconic buildings that would no longer exist. After encircling the entire of New York island, we headed north on the Hudson River toward West Point before ending a most unforgettable experience. We never knew how close we almost came to witnessing the 9/11 disaster firsthand. Days later I had T-shirts made for Jan, Peter and our kids, all sitting on the prow of the boat with the twin towers standing prominently in the background. On the back of the t-shirt was the Statue of Liberty, with the caption “Freedom isn’t free – 9/11/01 – God Bless America”.

 

This week, to commemorate that day, I participated with fellow community members in the annual Freedom Walk around our village.  A quaint, small-town event here in Jackson, The America Supports You Freedom Walk is actually a national tradition that calls on people to reflect on the lives lost on September 11, 2001, remember those who responded, honor our veterans past and present, and renew our commitment to freedom and the values of our country. Each year the number of walks held throughout the nation grows, as more people are moved to participate.

 

The tradition was born when Pentagon employees, seeking a way to honor and pay tribute to the victims of the attack on the Pentagon and their families organized a walk from the Pentagon to the National Mall. Nearly 15,000 people took part. Now, America Supports You Freedom Walks are taking place in communities across the nation.

 

Here in Jackson, NH we walk the 1.5 mile loop that wends its way through our Covered Bridge.  Antique cars, fire trucks, pets, kids on skate boards, motor cycles, people in or on any kind of transportation --- we all join in! The walk starts immediately following a few words from invited guests, a moment of silence, a prayer,  the Pledge of Allegiance and a group singing of  our National Anthem.

 

Immediately following the walk the Shannon Door, a local Irish Pub, opens their doors to our Military, Police, Fire & Rescue Personnel for complimentary pizza and all others are invited to join in as well. My son Josh and I participate in this walk every year.

 

While life has gotten somewhat back to normal during the interceding 11 years, we need to remember that our Freedom is continuously being challenged.  As a Nation we need to look to those who are on the front lines to continue to keep our Freedom safe. Although they don’t expect anything for their Valor, this annual freedom walk is a way of showing our appreciation by standing with them of our Own Free Will.  It is not and never will be a platform for personal politics... but rather is a solemn walk of a united American people who are honored to show their support to our Military, Police, Fire & Rescue personnel.
Does your community have a Freedom Walk? Do you have your own  personal recollections of that fateful September day in 2001? Sharing these stories keeps the memories alive of all the people involved, as well as  our national vulnerability. As long as Freedom exists, it will always be tested,  and even though we live in a great nation, under God, we need to be ever vigilant to protect it.  I’m not afraid or ashamed to tell Farmgirls everywhere – as well as all who will listen: God Bless America!

Until next time, Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from Cathi,
The Mountain Farmgirl


 

Comments

 
By: Betty Benesi
On: 09/17/2012 13:26:52
The most distinct thing I remember from that time aside from the horrible sadness was the partiotism and kindness people seemed to share. It lasted for only a while unfortunately, but it was a wonderful thing. I live in California and went to NY City for Thanksgiving the year after 9/11. My husband wanted to go to the site where the twin towers had been. At this time all there was were baricades and a big hole where they were still excavating.
I was stunned and grieved by the scene. All around the baricades hand written notes expressed peoples' condolences and hope for our country many coming from tourists of other countries. I cried all the way down the boardwalk. It still makes me weep to think of it.
 
By: meredith
On: 09/19/2012 07:51:40
God Bless America!!!!!
 
By: Joan
On: 09/19/2012 21:21:43
Thank you for this beautiful commemorative writing. Sadly, I, think we do not remember as we should what happened and how it still affects us today - yes we are affected by that day - not only the Twin Towers but the other 'bombings' too. WE MUST not forget lest it happens again. God Bless America!!!

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir