Remembering to thank beyond the Big Apple

First Posted: 9/10/2009

I knew after taking my summer trip to the Big Apple that Sept. 11 would hold a special significance for me this year. I just didnt know that Surry County would play a role in influencing my 9/11/09 experience.
For my college graduation and my sisters high school graduation, we decided to take a bus tour to several baseball stadiums. It had always been a dream of ours to see the Yankees play at home, so four members of my family traveled north last June.
Our trip brought us near all the locations key to the Sept. 11 attacks. We spent time in Washington, D.C., and I remembered the fear I felt eight years ago when I heard that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. I thought that maybe the whole nation was under attack. We also drove through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, not knowing how close we neared the field where Flight 93 crashed.
Then our tour took us to New York City. I sighed as I looked at the Manhattan skyline and realized that it would never look the same without the Twin Towers. I took pictures of the construction at Ground Zero, remembering the days I spent glued to the television watching the rescue efforts. My sister asked a police officer to take a picture with her while we walked down the streets. I was jealous that I didnt get to stand beside one of New Yorks finest.
And then we got to watch my beloved Yankees take the field at their new stadium. Yes, I got to see Derek Jeter hit a home run. I got to stand up proudly and sing God Bless America. But in the back of mind there was the memory of a year when the World Series had to be postponed, because suddenly things like baseball didnt matter as much.
My graduation trip was a lot of fun, but there were also moments of sadness. I thought, Yes, this Sept. 11 will hold special meaning for me. Ive just visited sacred sites.
But yesterday I realized something. Ive largely missed the point of this day. There were two events last week that taught me this.
I was surrounded last Wednesday by a sea of uniforms. I had the honor of covering the pinning of Mount Airy police officers. As I watched men and women come forward to receive their promotions, I was struck with gratitude.
Then on Friday I drove to cover the extravaganza that is the Hillsville Gun Show and Flea Market. This event is put on annually by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and many veterans or relatives of veterans volunteered at the event.
I was sitting yesterday, thinking back on my New York trip and how grateful I was for the police officers and firefighters that gave their lives on Sept. 11. Im sure many people will spend today thinking about the victims of the attacks, talking proudly about the NYPD and NYFD.
Thats wonderful. But why should it take the date of a tragedy to make us thankful for the men and women who have given their lives to protect our country? What about the men and women who still put their lives on the line every day to protect our local communities?
Whens the last time I felt so appreciative of a Piedmont police officer that I walked up to him or her and asked to take a picture with them? I honor the victims of Sept. 11 and those who are now serving in their place, but I should also honor those who are serving my own community.
I didnt say a single thank you last week to a police officer or veteran. I shouldnt have waited until Sept. 11 to express my appreciation, but Ill go ahead now.
Thank you to all of the local police officers, firefighters, veterans, and men and women in the service. Thank you to the citizens who reach out to save others, like the Good Samaritan who picked up the baby wandering on a Surry County street last week.
We should never forget the innocent people who died in the attacks on 9/11. We should never forget the men and women in uniform who worked to save lives, many of them losing their own in the process. But we should also not forget that we still have men and women risking their lives to save others.
Today, and every day, we thank you.
Meghann Evans is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. She may be reached at [email protected] or at 719-1952.

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