9/11 and Other Contributions to Maturity

No doubt you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard of the 9/11/2001 attacks.

I was teaching the first day of an on-site class at the large Motorola plant in Austin Texas. We stopped class to go and watch television coverage in the company cafeteria. Hours later, with horror heaped upon horror, class that day was abandoned. We reconvened the next day but, for the remaining three days, I doubt anyone learned anything other than “we are vulnerable.” At the finish of class, I called Avis and said I would be driving their rental car back home to Phoenix instead of flying. They said there would be no charge for the extra days and no drop-off fee.

Four years earlier, my father had passed away peacefully. In the follow-on paperwork, our stepmother’s Arkansas attorney announced that my father had placed his entire estate in “Joint Custody” with her and that, when he died, it all passed to her. His Last Will and Testament was essentially null and void as it had no assets on which to operate. Several attorneys later we were forced to give up, my father’s final wishes frustrated and come to naught.

Life is, among many things, a process of maturing, of coming to grips with reality.

On the one hand, I thank my parents and extended family for the sheltering and protection they provided. Unlike so many in this world, I had an idyllic childhood.

And I am grateful for the extended grace I’ve experienced in my adult life with the mercifully slow pace of “wake up calls” to the brutal reality of just what human beings are capable of doing.

And it is these latter “contributions” to my maturity that I hereby acknowledge.

Life is not about what happens but rather about what you make of it, what you make of those events, how you respond and what you choose to do because of them.

Life is action, doing and making.

Last week I was teaching a class near the NSA in Maryland. The students were identified only as “DOD”, nothing else. They were mostly young in their late 20s and, on 9/11/2009 the first day of class at 8:46AM EDT, I announced that I would be observing a minute of silence for those killed in and as a result of the terrorist attack eight years ago.

Later, we talked about hobbies and I mentioned that I liked to shoot Bullseye. There was another shooter in the class who used bow and arrow at 30, 60 and 90 meters. He and I had much to share about our respective Shot Plans and the role of body versus mind in each release at the firing line.

But for the minute of silence and, later, as each in the class described their individual hobbies, I could recognize their still mostly virginal 20-something naivete.

In time, that will pass, hopefully with gentle mercies but, nonetheless, if they live long enough the innocence will pass.

I’ve been blessed in this life by never having to shoot anything other than paper targets. I am blessed by the Lord and by the country in which I live.

Flying home this past Saturday, several groups of World War II veterans were passing through the Baltimore-Washington airport (BWI) on their way to and from the wonderful WW-II memorial on the Washington DC mall. It is, fittingly, a large memorial.

At the airport that Saturday morning, contingents of active duty military were on-hand from each branch to welcome the veterans as they disembarked from various commercial flights.

One group began cheering as the first veteran, wheelchair bound, rolled off the ramp and into the gate area. And for the full ten minutes as that one airplane emptied and more veterans appeared, the applause, whistles and cheers continued without pause. Indeed, word had passed from gate to gate about the welcomes taking place in the airport and many applauded even though they could not see the arriving veterans. And throughout the B concourse, all conversations were soon abandoned as each of us were reminded of the awesome debt we owe.

Some cried in their remembrances. Others did so in their realizations of what these veterans had secured for us.

To all those who have served and who are now serving our country, our future and the world in which my children and grandchildren will mature, I give you my most humble of salutes.

And for those in defense-related industries I have taught and for those I will teach in the future, I pray for the strength and wherewithal to give them my very best.

For they serve the future.


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