I am sure that shortly after 9/11 I posted my recollection of events as a spectator. I haven’t found them as yet so I’ll mention some things now. I had a two-year-old website at the time. For the next half a year I posted this photograph I had taken of the Duluth East Choir during its 1999 trip to the East Coast. Across from Lady Liberty’s Island, which the Choir was visiting, I framed the choir under the Twin Towers. I made sure that my daughter’s smiling face was dead center. When the towers fell I couldn’t think of a better remembrance to share along with the audio of an East Choir recording of the song, “Lost in the Night” with my daughter singing the solo.
I woke up on the day of the attack in good spirits. I don’t recall what was on my mind but I flew into the School Superintendent’s Office happy as a lark. When a secretary told me that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Towers I shrugged it off with a joke thinking it was a cessna or something on that order. It was only as I got back into my car to drive home that I tuned into the National Public Radio and began hearing the details. Once home after my five minute return trip I turned on the television to a picture of the first tower billowing smoke. I can’t remember if the second plan had struck by then but I remember wondering if the tower, either tower could remain standing as they were consumed by fire. I watched the first tower fall then the second.
Two years ago in France I watched minute by minute videos that had been taken at the time by witnesses during the deadly wait for the towers to fall. They had been gathered up by our nation’s national security as part of the initial investigation as to what had happened during those hours.Like December 7th, 9/11 will remain a touchstone for those alive at the time. Last year, after watching the fall of the Towers all over again, Claudia and I went on to visit the Normandy Coast of France. In the iconic American battlefield cemetery overlooking the invasion site we stopped and watched as an American Flag was raised and lowered and given to a spectator. I wondered if the flag might have been given to a descendant of one of the men lost in the Invasion of France.
For a month after the attack I put up our American flag on our Portico every day.
Up until the attack my chief concern as a school board member to offer an excess levy referendum to Duluth voters to keep funding the Duluth Schools adequately. One member of our Board, Bob Mars, made up his mind to oppose the levy. That was ominous as previous referendums had foundered without a unanimous Board supporting them. I was so disconsolate I asked my greatest foe on the Board to meet with me so I could tell her I didn’t have the heart to push for the levy referendum. She begged me to find the spirit to fight for it and over the next few days I found that spirit. In fact, one of my most controversial moments took place when I gave a speech explaining the need for the levy. Later I asked a television station for their recording of it. I swore once and that was later used against me by some critics. I called it “My Damn Speech.”
The levy did indeed fail and I always blamed that in part on the terrorists who put such a pall on American spirits. It was just one more victory for them. Perhaps our current national disorder can also be pinned in part on their actions. Or, maybe, we should be looking in the mirror to see the cause of that.