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United We Stand

Never forget and never go back.

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I was running a little late for work that morning. I didn’t feel so good when I first woke up. My head hurt. My stomach hurt. And my nervous rash was back The stress was getting to me. More specifically, the pre-wedding stress. I was about to get married, the “Moms” had met and were going to lunch together (my mom, God love her, is scary enough on her own, so the idea of her having a cohort is almost unthinkable), I still didn’t know how I was going to wear my hair for the ceremony, I was two chapters behind on my Italian lessons, my travel agent had booked us on a tour for our honeymoon to Italy and I needed to tell her we wanted to go it alone, and, to top it all off, the 12 gray hairs on the front of my head were back.

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When on earth was I going to find time to color my hair?

As I hopped in my car and headed toward the freeway, I pondered all my “problems” and decided there’s something to be said for eloping.

To get my mind off myself, I turned on the radio – which happened to be on 98.5, a Cleveland classic rock station that carries the Howard Stern show in the mornings. I’ve done a lot of commuting in my day, so I’m no stranger to Howard Stern. I wouldn’t call myself a fan, but I will admit that I’ve listened to his show on occasion – and when I’m not embarrassed or repulsed, I find myself laughing.

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But what I heard wasn’t funny.

Howard and Robin Quivers (Howard’s sidekick) were talking about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. Though they sounded genuinely upset and shocked, I couldn’t believe it. I listened for a few seconds in horror, and then thought to myself, “They’ve really crossed the line this time. Some listeners are going to think what they’re saying is true.”

So I changed the station.

What I found was that every station was saying the same thing. It was true. The unbelievable was true.

I tuned back to Howard and tried to hold back my tears as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon unfolded – and as thousands of innocent people lost their lives.

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How could this happen? Why would someone do something like this? I asked myself the same hundred questions that every other American asked himself on that fateful Tuesday.

Driving as fast as I could to get to work, I found nearly everyone congregated in the TV room. As we watched and listened, nothing else mattered. My earlier “problems” were insignificant. I was no longer a nervous bride-to-be. I was no longer the editor of a magazine. I was no longer a woman or a daughter or a friend. I was an American.

And I had never felt so sad, so violated … or so patriotic.

On that tragic day, when so many lost people they love and so many more risked their own lives to help locate and rescue survivors, I couldn’t help but be overcome with feelings of grief and pride. And those feelings remain – and grow stronger – as our country continues to pull together and people from all walks of life continue to volunteer their services.

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One week later, as I write this, I know I’m not the same person who drove to work last Tuesday. I’m sadder now. I’m more aware of how vulnerable life is. I have a better understanding of what’s truly important. And I’ve never been more proud.

This is my home. This is where the people I love live. This is where I’ll be until the day I die. This is the United States of America.

Never forget and never go back. We’re all different for what’s happened. We’re all a little more human. And we’ve all learned that when it comes right down to it, we’re more alike than we are different because of the unbreakable bond we share: We all live in the greatest country in the world.

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