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Since 9/11

By Sharon B. Siepel
Guest Writer“We’re going on a real airplane,” squealed my two girls as they tried to buckle their seat belts, lower their tray tables, and look out on the tarmac all at once. Giddiness mixed with the fear of the unknown played over their eyes.

“Is this thing really going to blast-off?” asked one. Wanting to reassure them, I turned to the flight attendant and asked if they could visit the cockpit and meet the pilot, just as I had on my first flight many moons ago.

“Oh, we don’t do that any more –not since 9/11,” she replied. It was to become the mantra of our family vacation.

We landed in Denver, home of three of my siblings. The last time we had visited we had one child, now we had four. Since early spring, I had looked forward to this reunion. As we walked from the airplane to the terminal, I recalled the sweetness of being greeted at the airport by exuberant relatives. The shower of hugs and shy hellos of people you rarely saw reaffirmed that you were loved outside the four walls of your immediate family. The world beyond suddenly became much less scary.

We entered the emotionless, stark, stainless steel terminal. Strangers that refused to make eye contact, shoved past in order to get somewhere else. This is how my children would remember the airport. I mentioned the difference to my husband. “Well, you know, since 9/11. . .”

“Let’s visit the Air Force Academy,” I suggested one morning.

My sister’s face turned down. “Can’t really see much anymore. Most of the campus has been locked down since 9/11.”

“Okay, then let’s go to the U.S. Mint,” I said. My sister just stared back at me. “Don’t tell me you can’t tour there either.”

“No, they still have tours. It is just that you need to make reservations three to four weeks in advance,” she said.

“When did they start doing that?” I asked, even though I could have guessed the answer.

“Since 9/11.”

Some people say that the United States entered the War on Terror for power, ego or oil. Have we forgotten some of the simple freedoms that we used to enjoy before that terrible day, September 11, 2001? Do we, as citizens of these United States of America truly understand what our lives will look like if we do not conquer the evil that desires to eliminate all of our freedom?

Above, I have mentioned small things; access inside an airplane, airport or national treasure. It might not seem like much, but this past week it added up for my family. Can you imagine what else we could lose if 9/11 were allowed to repeat itself?

At one of the Colorado tourist attractions we were able to visit, we were poignantly reminded that there are those who are willing to risk their lives to ensure that terror never strikes our homeland again and our freedoms are not diminished further. From pine branches and fence rails at the Flying W Ranch hang hundreds of yellow streamers. Either family or friends of someone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan lovingly hung each one. Some bear a personal message; all of them bear a name.

“Is Matt’s here?” my thirteen-year-old son asked.

“I don’t know if anyone from Clermont County, Ohio has made it out this far,” I answered.

My son gave me that piercing gaze that only a teenager would dare to give an adult. Even though we refer to Matt Maupin on a first name basis, we have never met the young man or his family. Yet Matt is remembered regularly in bedtime prayers at our house. I walked to the ranch office and asked for a streamer and pen. “Matt Maupin –captured in Iraq—Batavia, OH,” I wrote.I handed the ribbon to my son, who found a prominent place to tie it. “This way, they won’t miss it,” he said.

Every morning, the staff of the Flying W Ranch walks through the golden forest of waving names and offers personal prayers for those men and women and their families. It is a task they do not take lightly. And neither should we. For our military are not warring over politics or for the benefit of our economy. Rather they have placed themselves in harms way in order to make sure it is freedom, not fear that reigns over our country.

When did my son start caring so much about those who serve to protect and fight for us? Since the morning he watched nearly three thousand fellow citizens die at the hands of terrorists dedicated to destruction –since 9/11.

Sharon Siepel is a freelance writer from Goshen, OH. This article first appeared as a letter to the editor in the Community Press North Clermont on August 4, 2004.

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