At some point in every life, there comes a need for X-rays. It might be a broken bone, as it was this time for me, when I broke my shoulder three weeks ago, or it might be at the dentist, as he looks for cavities in your teeth, but I think pretty much everyone has an X-ray at some point. This process is so common, that most of us give it little or no thought, but prior to November 8, 1895, X-rays didn’t exist. It was on this day in 1895…120 years ago, that physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen became the first person to observe X-rays. This was a huge scientific advancement that would ultimately benefit a variety of fields, but most of all medicine, by making the hidden things visible. Before the discovery of X-ray, broken bones, tumors, and the location of bullets were all diagnosed by physical examination and a doctor’s best guess. It’s no wonder so many people didn’t survive their injuries or illnesses.
When I broke my shoulder, having the X-rays was something I really gave no thought to, other than sitting there with my shoulder hurting while the technicians did their jobs. Of course, looking at the X-rays of my broken shoulder was interesting. I suppose that comes from my caregiver side. Since taking care of my parents and in-laws, I can honestly say that I have looked at more X-rays than I can count. Each one held an interest to me. It cleared up the mystery of what was wrong with my loved one, and now myself. I have to think too, that were it not for the ability to do X-rays, my surgery to put a plate and nine screws in my shoulder bone, would not have been possible, or at least not easy to do. I’m sure that my prognosis would have been much different. X-rays have made so many things possible, and they aren’t even limited to the medical field. They have helped in many fields. Other than medicine, the other original use for X rays was in studying the inner structure of materials. By firing a beam of X rays at a crystal, the atoms scatter the beam in a very precise way, casting a kind of shadow of the crystal’s interior pattern from which you can measure the distance between one atom and nearby atoms. X-rays are used in airports to look into carry on items to ensure the safety of the passengers on the flight. The criminal justice system has used dental and other X-rays for some time to identify unknown crime victims. X-rays are being used to identify the elements of paintings done by the masters to find out what kind of pigment was used. They help to determine the age of paintings, whether they are genuine or copies and how the pigments change over time. X-rays have improved the work of so many people, by making the hidden things visible.
Röntgen’s discovery of the X-ray was really by accident. He was in his lab in Wurzburg, Germany, where he was testing whether cathode rays could pass through glass when he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. Because he really didn’t know exactly what kind of rays these were, he called them X-rays. I have often wondered just why they were called X-rays. Now I know. It was all because X means unknown. It’s almost funny to call something unknown, when it reveals the hidden things, making them known. No matter what it is called, it is, nevertheless, an amazing find and an amazing advancement in the medical field, and so many others too.
Like most people, I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news came out about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I was at home, my grandchildren were just arriving to await the time to go to school. I was getting ready for work and to take them to school. Kevin, my daughter Corrie’s husband, called to tell us that there were fires at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I remember saying, “How can that be? They are nowhere near each other!” I couldn’t wrap my mind around how that could be, until we learned that it was planes and terrorist attacks.
I remember feeling stunned all day, and for the next several days as well. Thoughts of all the people killed in the attack haunted me all day. I felt a deep sense of dread and pain for the families who had lost so much. Like most Americans, I wished I had a way to help, but I didn’t know of one, and I was needed at home. So I prayed, constantly for the people still trapped, as well as the dead, dying, their families, and our country.
As I look back on all that horror today, and listen to the people who complain about airport security, I have to wonder what they are thinking. It was complacency that opened our country up for those attacks. And it will be complacency that will bring them on again. If we are going to protect ourselves, and our country, we must stay ever alert.
And when I hear people saying that we should not profile those we search, I say, “Wake up!!” If we go into most other countries, we are looked at differently than their citizens. And while I am not racist, I feel like anyone who looks like they have an Arab background, needs to understand that if they are not a terrorist…then, we are doing this to protect them too. The rules have changed so much since that day, 10 years ago, when we found out the we can’t afford to be so trusting. We all need to be more understanding of those trying to protect us, and stop trying to make their lives more difficult. They are, after all, just doing their job like everyone else.
In a perfect world, none of this would be necessary, but in a perfect world, we would not have lost 2,819 people in one day, as the result of one planned terrorist attack. We don’t live in a perfect world, unfortunately, and there are people out there that hate us. I think we owe it to those who lost their lives to do our very best to make sure it never happens again.
Today is the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The memory of those attacks and those who lost their lives should be as vivid in our memories as they were 10 years ago, or 10 years from now. We must never forget!!