December 7th, 1941: A day of infamy.
September 11th, 2001: A day of infamy.
Both days are days of infamy. Sorrow. Loss. Both days are also days of IMPACT. A day of impact or a moment of impact is something you never forget. You are able to recount every feeling, thought, and detail of the moment of impact. On 9/11, our country had one of those days. It was impossible to find an American flag anywhere. They were all purchased. On 9/12, everyone was proudly displaying the American flag. As a country, we became ONE. We mourned as ONE. We had been forged in a moment of great adversity. On 9/11, we watched as the United States Congress stood as ONE on the Capitol Building steps and sang, “God Bless America.” We saw the footage of police, fire, paramedics, soldiers, nurses and civilians running into buildings to help rescue others. We saw boats come to the island to rescue. We saw people helping each other. We were all impacted deeply. Deeply.
Yesterday, I had the honor of leading the Westlake Lacrosse team on a run of honor in remembrance of what took place 18 years ago. I invited 4 boys to serve as the flag bearers for this run: A senior, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman. This is not an easy thing to do while running. Two boys honorably carried the flags to our destination and the other 2 boys carried the flags back from our destination. Two new flags were purchased and fastened to two different poles, each pole perfectly cut to 9 feet. This was intentional and symbolic of the 18 year anniversary. Prior to our run, we watched a short video about 9/11 entitled “Boatlift.” It told the remarkable story of rescue on that day. Afterwards, we met out by the tennis courts at Westlake and formed our lines. Everyone was instructed that we would be honked at, waved to and/or have pictures taken. They were told not to wave back or salute back with the raise of the lacrosse stick. Instead, we would remain disciplined as one to honor those who died and honor those who live. We formed two equal lines and took our run from the tennis courts at Westlake, headed South to Pony Express, East to Redwood Road and then North up Redwood Road to the sidewalk by Mod Pizza and Smith’s Marketplace. It is there we stood for 10 minutes with the two American flags raised right next to each other as we evenly distributed ourselves on both sides of the flags. We stood in remembrance with hands over hearts. What transpired on this run was inspiring. We set out to make an impact on our community and help others remember what we once were as a country: ONE.
On our run, we had hundreds of people honk their horns, flash their lights, scream out in support to us, take pictures and capture video. Fire trucks sounded their horns and flashed their lights. Police lit their lights and sounded their alarms. Tow trucks shined their lights in support as well as construction trucks, garbage trucks and 18-wheelers. Redwood Road, Pony Express and Pioneer Crossing lit up and sounded off in the most beautiful ways. As we ran, we saw traffic slow down, even though there were no red lights, stop lights or emergency sirens coming through. They held out their hands and waved or raised their fists in support. Little children could be heard from passing cars yelling, “WooHoo! Go Westlake!” As a father of five, that got me choked up as I ran with tears coming down my cheeks. Inspiring. Impactful. As we stood in silence for about 10 minutes along Redwood Road on the sidewalk just by Mod Pizza, there was a reverence in the air that compared very similarly to what 9/11/01 felt like in this country. It was powerful. Music was turned down. Engines seemed to go silent. An air of patience permeated in every car. We could feel the eyes of the community watching. Then came the touch of a hand on my shoulder: A US soldier. Dressed in his military uniform, he looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate this so much.” He then shook my hand and proceeded down the line to shake the hand of everyone that participated in this run. That was a moment of IMPACT. We then formed back into our lines, the flags changed hands to the new flag bearers and we continued our run back to where we began.
What was so inspiring about this run was that not one single boy or girl who participated in this run was even born before 9/11/2001. They were told prior that as we do this run, they would deeply impact our community and that they would experience a moment of impact in their lives. And they did. As a Saratoga Springs resident and a teacher at Lake Mountain and a Coach for Westlake, I was deeply impacted by all of this! We saw our community unite. We saw our community SHINE. In the process of this run, we had for ourselves a MOMENT OF IMPACT that will stay with us forever. To all who honked, waved, cheered, took pictures and so forth: Thank you. It was your reaction that made this moment what it was: Impactful. We will NEVER FORGET 9/11. Even though none of these incredible young men and women were born prior to the events that transpired 18 years ago…they will NEVER FORGET it, either. And that is an amazing, beautiful thing.