September 21, 2001


Flag Waving

written by
JJohn Hartness























for more comment from John,
please read "God is Love"

It's been more than a week, and I still spend too much time on I still get watery-eyed when I pass a car with a flag on the window or antenna. I still wake up every morning and think "this is not the world I grew up in."

I'm 28 years old. I have never known war in my time. I have known unparalleled prosperity and peace. I have gone to college, gotten my degree, bought a car, gotten married, bought a house, a pair of khakis and gone to work. I have worried that the Panthers may never make the playoffs again, that the new Sting album isn't as good as his old stuff, that we don't have actors like Orson Welles anymore. What amazing bullshit.

On September 12, I woke up, went downstairs, logged on to the internet. And cried. I couldn't cry on Tuesday, I was too numb. Wednesday, I woke up. It wasn't a bad dream. It wasn't a movie. The world had changed more in three hours than in my whole life. It wasn't right. This doesn't happen. Not just here, this doesn't happen. Especially not on a Tuesday. But it did. Wednesday I cried. I have shed a tear at some point every day since. Some in sadness, some in anger, but many at the response of the people of America. A response that makes me believe what they taught me in Civics class.

Driving into downtown Charlotte last Friday I passed under a 30-foot American flag waving from a ladder truck by members of the Charlotte Fire Department and wept again. For the heroes of this year. Not Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds or Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, but firefighters and police officers. The very authority figures my generation has ignored, ridiculed, underpaid and under appreciated. Thank You. I, and many of my peers, will never again forget what it is that you do for us.

My generation has not had the defining moments of our parents. We have never had The Bomb. We have never had a president assassinated. We were too young for the Beatles when Lennon was slain. We were born during or after Vietnam. We vaguely remember yellow ribbons for the Iran hostages. Even the disastrous flight of the Challenger is a dim memory for some of us. This is the first time we have been asked to be Americans, not individuals. This is the first time that the words "land of the free and home of the brave" have meant anything more to us than a song at a baseball game. But we are Americans. We have our national pride, rapidly awakening at the assault on our people and the affront to our liberty.

And we have our heroes. They were on flight 93. They were running up the stairs in the twin towers when everyone else was running down. They were in ambulances, fire trucks and patrol cars at the scene. They are in Manhattan right now, working 12- and 24-hour shifts looking for survivors.

Yes, we have been hurt. Yes, my generation of pampered Americans has felt pain like nothing we have ever imagined. Yes, we are angry and want revenge. But we have also been brought together in a way that was unimaginable three weeks ago. Yes, we will move on eventually. But no, we will never forget.

And yes, the star-spangled banner yet waves. O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

~ John Hartness

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