Fifteen years ago today, Americans were greeted with horror, as terrorism split the atmosphere of safety we had long enjoyed around our nation. I think most Americans had become comfortable, and even complacent about national security. Life was going along at almost a lazy Sunday afternoon pace. We were like small town kids, who thought that nothing ever happens in our town. How very wrong we were. Our world was about to be turned upside down.
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, I think most people thought it was a tragic accident. We simply couldn’t fathom the idea that a terrorist would be so horribly cruel as to hijack a plane full of innocent people and fly it straight into a building full of more innocent people. And yet, to our horror, that is exactly what these terrorists did. They operated the planes with no mercy and no feelings. They did not care about the lives they were taking or even about their own lives…in fact, they thought they were heroes for their actions, and that there would be great rewards in Heaven for them. Their complete shock as they entered Hell, must have been devastating.
Their actions left our nation is shock and disbelief. We watch as the devastation unfolded before us, growing worse by the moment, our hearts and minds were assaulted, yet we could not look away. We watched, hoping that the people on the top floors could be saved…even after they began to fall or jump from the building, because the heat was more than they could take. We felt sick with each and every thud. We prayed over the rescuers, that they would be successful in getting people out, and that they would come out too. We watched in stunned disbelief as the towers fell, praying that after the first tower fell, that somehow, the second would remain standing…until it also fell. We became angry at the people who had done this, without provocation. Pure hate, of our beliefs, our prosperity, and our liberties, and that drove them to attack us.
As the day went on, we watched in horror as more information came out. We knew that there were going to be many people died, but still we watched as they dug through the rubble. We thought there would suddenly be people found alive in that rubble. As time went on, we knew that there wouldn’t be huge numbers of survivors. In the end, only twelve people were found alive after the towers fell. After a couple of days, we knew there would be no more, still we could not look away. We had to watch…had to know. As each lost one was found…we cried right along with their families. Then came the worst horror of all…finding out that some people would never be found. The fires had been so hot that their bodies were cremated. That added more horror to our thoughts. It was something we just couldn’t fathom, just like we could not fathom that 15 years later, that day would still be as vivid in our memories as it was on the day we were attacked.
As the railroad spread across this land, and payrolls began coming in by way of the railroad, a new breed of criminal showed up on the scene…the train robbers. At first, the train robbers got away with it, because no one had really given much thought to the possibility of such a thing happening. Gangs like Jesse James…who was best known as a bank robber, but was also one of the early train robbers, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, the Dalton Gang, and the Reno Gang terrorized the railways, stealing the payrolls of crews working on building the railroads and towns in the west.
With the advent of train robberies came a need for a solution. Enter the train police. At first the railroads would arrange for a posse to go after the robbers, but eventually they realized that the posse was too little too late. They had to take affirmative action. So they put the police on the train with the money. I’m sure that more violence came from that action, but the robbers probably didn’t get away with it as often as they had been.
I think that in many ways, we have almost romanticized the train robbers, but in reality, they were like any other criminal. They would kill for the money they were after. The police were under as much pressure as the police these days. You can’t face a gun as a regular part of your job and not have some degree of fear for your life. These men were the law, and they were pretty much on their own. They couldn’t call in the state police, or the police from the next town over. Those were too far away…especially with the distances the trains traveled. The railroad police were the only thing standing between the robbers and the money.
Theirs was an important job too. Every time the train was robbed, peoples lives were affected. Without the payroll money, the workers couldn’t support their families, and that caused more problems. The workers were angry and then desperate. I don’t think police work would be for me, but I have to wonder if police work was harder back in the old west, or now, with the terrorism and gang issues…or if police work is police work, no matter what era it is.
As a young family, my in-laws lived in Montana, and my father-in-law worked for the railroad. Their family was growing, and now they had 3 children, Marlyce, Debbe, and my future husband, Bob. My father-in-law was working for the railroad, and the family was living on railroad property.Things were going well enough, but in 1956, the decision was made to move the family from Dalin, Montana to Martinsville, Montana…neither of which still exist today, as near as I can tell, so unfortunately, I can’t say how long the trip was. That doesn’t really matter, because, any trip with three children under the age of 7 years, had to seem like an eternity. Nevertheless, this trip was about to get a little bit longer. They loaded their belongings into a 1951 Ford pickup truck, which was the first vehicle my father-in-law had ever owned, and it had been purchased brand new in 1951, so it was a nice vehicle. Everything loaded, they set out for Martinsville.
Along the way to Martinsville, a pickup pulled out in front of the 1951 Ford. The accident destroyed all their furniture and totaled the pickup. I can only imagine how awful that was. In those days, seat belts and car seats were unheard of, so I’m sure my in-laws thought they were all about to die. It was a devastating event, but the family was all ok, but, now they were stuck waiting for the police and tow truck, and had to figure out what to do next. The trip took just about the worst possible turn. I can hear the kids now. The girls were most likely crying because they were cold or hungry, and Bob being only 2 years old was either scared, or more likely curious…if I know him. It would be my guess that both of my in-laws had a massive headache from the trauma and worry, both for their family and for their future.
In the end, things turned out ok. The insurance money was enough to buy a 1953 Ford pickup and a 33 foot mobile home. I can’t imagine three kids in a 33 foot mobile home, but I’m sure they felt like it was practically a palace, considering the way things could have gone. Car accidents can conpletely devistate lives, but their little family was alive, and no one was hurt badly, so the rest of it was just stuff. If you can walk away from an accident like that in one piece, you thank the Lord, and count your many blessings.
If you were a teenager in the 1970’s, in Casper, Wyoming, you know about dragging the strip, because that was what the kids did back then. The local businesses didn’t appreciate it much when we stopped to talk in their parking lots either, although to this day I don’t know what harm there was in it. Nevertheless, if you sat in their parking lot very long, the police would show up and make you leave, and if you were caught there very much, they could even give you a ticket for loitering, although I never heard of anyone who got one.
Dragging the strip gave the local teens the chance to show off their cars and hang out with their friends. Our friend, Lana had a yellow Mach I Mustang. She took that thing to the car wash after work…every day, and then she headed out to the strip to hang with her friends. That always struck me as funny, because I just couldn’t see how her car could have been that dirty. I asked her about it once, and she said she just couldn’t take a dirty car out on the strip, and she lived on a dirt road, so it got dusty every time she went home. It made sense, I guess, but it was still funny. The things that bug us as kids…right.
The strip went from Red Barn, now Peaches, on 2nd Street to Smith’s on CY Avenue, and if you rode it very long, you would see just about every beater and hot rod imaginable. Bob drove a 1974 AMC Hornet, which would not be considered a sport car, except that it was gold, with racing stripes, mag wheels, and it was jacked up in the rear end, plus it was a V-8, and that gave it plenty of power, because it was a small car. My car was a 1968 Plymouth Fury III…not a sporty car, because my dad told me that I should get a car that could go from being my first car to being a family car later. It was a good idea, and it did do that, but I really wanted the pink Plymouth Duster that I tried to sell him on, or even the old panel van that I thought looked funky. Our friend Leroy drove an orange Road Runner, and another friend Kurt, drove a blue fastback Mustang. Some of the cars were beaters, as I said…just something to get by on, but not much for looks. It didn’t seem to matter as kids, because the main thing was to have the freedom to hang out and drag the strip, peeling out of A & W and wearing out our tires, and wasting gas…which I’m sure more than one of us wish we had back these days.
As we all know, today is the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in United States history. September 11, 2001 was as horrible as it gets, but while it was designed to destroy us, the terrorists did not understand the strength of this country and it’s people. The people of this nation are survivors. When we are attacked, we fight back. We do not give up. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2977 innocent victims, and 19 hijackers…who I like to think of as executed. These misguided men thought they were doing something great, but they had a rude awakening when they hit eternity. The fires from the planes were nothing compared to the fires of hell.
What followed the attacks was some of the greatest displays of heroics known to mankind. Rescue workers, from police, firemen, and port authority, to ordinary people sprang into action. They were the ones not running from the building, they were running into the building, or staying in the building instead of running to escape. These people valued the life of others over and above their own…knowing that their actions would most likely bring their own death. What kind of person is so selfless? Their actions went so against the normal reaction to this kind of situation. Normally your reaction is to save yourself…run…survive, but not these people. They chose to save others…to go into the buildings…to rescue, to sacrifice themselves so that others would survive. That is the greatest gift, as the Bible says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And many of these people didn’t even know the people that they were laying down their lives for. In the face of hate, these heroes loved their fellow man, and did everything in their power to save them.
Everyday, rescue workers and ordinary people make the choice to put others ahead of themselves. Sometimes it is life threatening situations, and sometimes it is saving structures and forests, but the actions are the same. Without regard for their own lives these heroes rush in to save. Today, we remember all those who were lost in the horrible attacks of September 11, 2001, rescue workers and innocent victims alike. It doesn’t matter how their lives were lost. What matters is that their lives were precious and taken from them far too soon. What matters is that they stood bravely in the face of hate, and showed the world that love wins in the end. Those people, those innocent victims and rescue workers deserve to be remembered forever. Their attackers don’t. They chose their fate. They embodied the face of hate that brought out the love…the very best in the people of this country. In the face of hate, our people showed love to one another. There is no greater love on this earth.
When Weston was a little boy, his mom, my niece, Machelle worked at Taco Bell. Weston really liked the fact that his mom worked there, because that meant he got to go there often. And going to Taco Bell was cool in several ways, but mostly because he got toys. Now that may not seem like such a big deal to most of us, but to a 4 year old boy, toys are the best part. There is just something about getting toys that is so exciting to a little kid. Even a cheap toy is like getting a birthday or Christmas present.
One day, Machelle had gone down to the Pamida store and Weston stayed home with his daddy, Machelle’s husband Steve. Weston was playing in the yard, and Steve had stepped into the house for a minute. Weston had been thinking about those great toys at the Taco Bell, and he knew that if his mom were there, she would take him down there to get one, but she wasn’t there. So, Weston decided to take matters into his own hands.
Weston had wheels, so why wait? He opened the gate and headed off on his tricycle to Taco Bell. He had been there many times, and he knew the way. It is amazing how well those little kids know directions to places they especially like to go…like a favorite restaurant. They are always watching when they are in the car…just to see if they might, just might be going to that favorite place.
So began Weston’s adventure. He peddled his way down the street…quickly, because he really wanted that toy. On the way there, Weston only stopped once, because he was, after all, a boy on a mission. Still, a little white kitten had the ability to bring his trip to a halt, just for a minute, because that kitty was just so cute, and he really needed to be petted for a minute. After that, Weston was back on his way to Taco Bell.
Weston’s dad, meanwhile had come back to the yard, and found his precious little boy missing. In a serious panic, Steve went looking for his little boy. He first checked the one place he assumed Weston would go…his grandma’s house. So he headed over there, only to find that Weston had not been there. Not sure what to do next, he headed back home to see if Weston had returned. When he got there, he found the police at his house…not the best greeting…until he saw Weston.
With a great sigh of relief, he gathered up his son, and waited to hear what had happened. As it turned out, a police car came upon Weston, happily riding his tricycle on the 4 lane highway that runs through the small town. When Weston’s adventure came it’s untimely end, he was only 4 blocks from his destination, and was not at all lost…just disappointed. Today is Weston’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Weston! We love you!