We the People, on September 11

We the People, Sept 11In 1787, the Constitution was written. We became “We the People.”

And We the People have been fighting wars all ever since. School kids in America learn about possibly 10% of these wars, but U.S. history is comprised of dozens and dozens of wars, campaigns, and rebellions. When one ends, another begins.

We the People fight for land, liberty, equality, and fight against injustice of any kind.

We the People win, We the People lose, We the People withdraw. We the People typically live in relative peace, thanks to our own who fight these wars far from U.S. soil.

We the People attack. And We the People have been attacked.

We the People have always seen ourselves as different, perhaps touched, in a way, able to think for ourselves and willing to act on our own or another’s behalf. Right or wrong, it’s become the American Way. It makes us unpopular. But We the People don’t give up.

We’re a country, after all, that began with a rebellion.

In 1776, the 13 American colonies broke away from the British Empire, the colonists declared their independence, and sought the chance to rule themselves, the ability to make their own decisions, and the opportunity to build and thrive without the heavy burden of taxation without representation.

They wanted a say in their own lives, and they rebelled to get it. And whether you can trace your ancestry back to those founding fathers or you just arrived in America yesterday, you need to know about this spirit of rebellion and the fire that courses through our veins to lift up this land of the free and home of the brave.

Despite the atrocity and the infamy of today, September 11 also stands for hope, solidarity, and rebirth, because that’s what America is and always has been. Today we mourn our fallen, and we remember the outright courage of our own rebellious heroes who rushed into burning buildings and who downed their hijacked plane, these heroes who, to quote Lincoln, gave their lives that that nation might live.

It’s a powerful gift, this life. A gift we dare not forget.

~Jody Brown was working in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. Her personal story of that day can be found in her debut novel, Upside Down Kingdom.

Feeling September 11

Excerpt from Upside Down Kingdom:

“…We had the radio, and its constant updates. Even though they were reporting rogue plane sightings overhead that we couldn’t see, at least there were voices giving us information. They were an outside link beyond the confused and surreal streets of Washington.

No one was in a hurry. We didn’t see any accidents. We complained that D.C. didn’t have a better evacuation plan. The government workers all came in at staggered times, and left at staggered times, so the streets were always full but never at full capacity at once. This was full capacity. And we kept looking to the skies.

The radio announced Virginia schools were evacuating, for parents to pick up their children.

“No!” I protested. That was the last thing we needed, for all the traffic-jammed parents to suddenly need to be somewhere.

We weren’t really scared. Concerned, maybe. Concerned for our safety as a whole, the safety of our city, country. No one’s needs were put above our own, as evidenced when no one wrecked or ran red lights (except the Metro busses), and no one drove in a panic. There was a feeling of community, of togetherness in this awful day. We were suddenly all a family, all hoping, rather than trying, to get somewhere to safety…I slowly passed car after car heading in the opposite direction. We stared at the skies together, offered directions when asked, even asked how each other was, as we inched along the streets of D.C.

There were no religious ramblers shouting from street corners, no elephants running through the streets, no women screaming and fainting, no glass breaking, in fact no sirens at this point…There was no panic, no real noise. Nothing. Just a traffic jam and a lot of very calm drivers. And a feeling of clarity in a surreal world…”

I wrote those words on September 13, 2001 when I was living in Washington, D.C. My office was given the 12th off from work and I and everyone else spent an emotional day in disbelief. I told myself I’d always remember where I was and how I felt on the 11th, and that there was no need to relive it by writing it down. On the 13th, I realized that future generations would come who would have no idea the feelings on that day. By then, they could read timelines, news articles, history books, but no reporting of facts would tell them how it felt. On the 13th, I wrote.

The loved ones that I knew were flying that day had been diverted safely, and those I knew working in destroyed buildings were found safe. Still, the great loss was felt. Every one of us sharing this planet together, lost. The apple’d been bitten. The innocence was gone.

And it occurs to me, that in that mire we also gained. We gained the discovery that people are willing to jump in and help each other without a second thought. Men and women were risking their lives to get one another to safety because that’s what naturally occurred to them. Something latent inside us all woke up.DSC00496 Our instincts had shone forth. On that day, and the days that followed, we and our friends and neighbors became brave. Not fearless, mind you, brave.

We gained heroes. Heroes that were in uniform–and many without. And these heroes showed us how to live.

Tomorrow and every September 11 since, I mourn, I reflect, and I remember. And time after time, I find myself again looking to the skies, this time with hope.