By Sheila Otterstrom
Sept. 11, 2001, will be a date in American history that will never be forgotten. It is a day when America realized how smug we've become and how letting down our defenses cost our country countless lives and we almost lost our freedom.
That fateful day made us aware that being rich and powerful isn't all that matters. What we thought of as our strength became our own weakness. We thought no one would dare to fight the "mighty U.S.A.," the most sought-after nation. We felt we were above reproach, better than all the other nations, better than everyone. Instead, we found out that we have our own weaknesses, many of them, and others have been watching and just waiting for the opportunity to use these weaknesses against us.
My husband, Craig, and I were doing our "usual morning routine" when this horrendous event took place. I was sitting in my recliner watching the news, sipping my coffee, trying to gear up for "another day at the office." Craig, just getting out of the shower, was discussing with me our plans for another hectic day. While trying to catch up on the news on television, I was busy thinking ahead to all I had to accomplish that day, and I'm sure Craig was doing the same. Then, all of a sudden that dreadful plane smashed into the towers. I hollered, "Craig, come quick; come see this." He knew by the urgency in my voice that it was serious, something terrible was happening. We both stared, in shock and in disbelief, at what we knew was real it was live; it was happening now while we sat helpless and afraid of the outcome. I said out loud, "Oh, my God. What's happening, Craig?" We both watched in awe, in horror, as the second plane hit and the buildings burst into flame. It was at this moment that we both knew this event was not a hoax we were witnessing history in the making.
We finished getting ready for work, keeping our eyes on the latest development. We held each tightly and both of us said, "I love you" with tears in our eyes knowing that it could be our last time together. I took a deep breath and said, "See you later." I just couldn't say goodbye. I had to just put my faith in God that everything would be all right. We both knew anything was possible that day, even though neither of us said so. We finally had to go or be late, and I said a prayer for my husband, my family, my friends, my co-workers and Craig's, and a general prayer for all my relatives and those I love and care about. Then, especially that day, I said a special prayer for those who were doing this to our country. I asked God, in His wisdom, to come to our aid and help us stand together peacefully and settle our differences. I didn't want to see another war. I wept for those who perished and their families. I cried for the many people who would never see their loved ones again and thanked God once again for my husband and two sons, my daughter-in-law, and our two beautiful grandchildren, my mom and my sister, and my three brothers and all my other relatives. I tried to think if I knew anyone in New York; thank God, I did not not that it would stop me from worrying about those who did. My mind raced as I quickly thought, "What can I do to help?"
Right then, all I could think of was the destruction, the utter desolation, the inhumane act and all for what reason? There were no good reasons none other than the notion that it was time to test the strength of America, that power and might were on the line, and we were being "put to the test" and "may the best man win."
Unfortunately, our enemies underestimated our strength, our unity and our commitment to freedom. We started our country as a united front, and we'll live, and if necessary, we'll die united. When the going gets tough, we band together, pool our resources, and fight anyone and anything in our path. We used to have only one path one goal to freedom of choice. That is the problem today. We've taken our freedom for granted and we're now paying the price for forgetting its worth. We paid a heavy price with lives and with devastation of our country. Our economy has hit some very rough spots because of our complacent attitude. Now, we still have the time to correct the situation. It's not too late; we're still not finished yet, and the game is not over. We can still rebuild our country, reinforce our values, instill the pride and honor in our nation and in our leaders if we will just remember who we are and where we come from. Our roots and our memories of a better time have made us what we are today. Our dreams for tomorrow will keep us working forward toward our future goals, and our commitment today can make everything happen.
Most of all, we all need to realize that each of us is an important cog in the wheel of progress. If every person made a commitment to our country and to our freedom, we could make the world a better place. Sometimes it only takes a smile, a hug, an open ear to listen when someone needs to vent, and an open heart to care enough to make someone feel better. We can all do something, or anything. Just take the time to care for the person next to you, whether you know him/her or not. What could it hurt? You might just find a new friend or at least make someone's day. Be conscious of what you're saying (or not saying.) Did you make someone feel better or worse today? Reach out and be a better person. What you get back in return will be well worth it. Forget the judgmental attitude. We're all the same, just frail humans trying to get by, living day to day, with as much pride and dignity as we can muster. We're all headed toward one goal unity. That's the bottom line. To be one nation, under God, was the motto this country was built on, and we need to get back to that philosophy. We need to band together, united and strong, and fight for what we believe in. After all, that's what freedom is the right to believe any way we want, as long as it doesn't harm anyone in the process.
Never take freedom for granted. Our freedom could easily be taken away. Remember, you can make a difference if you remember one thing: Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.
Sheila Otterstrom is a Havre resident and is married to Havre Daily News circulation director Craig Otterstrom.