It was my wife. I had been on an American Airlines flight heading for L.A., after all – and at that time, not much else was known about the first plane that struck the World Trade Center. I thought she had to be misunderstanding what she had seen on TV. Would that she hadâ€¦.
So that day, when family and friends were so dear and precious to us all, I spent in a hotel room in Dallas. It was perhaps the longest day – loneliest night – of my life. In fact, I was to spend the next several days in Dallas – there were no planes flying, no rental cars to be had – separated from home and family by hundreds of insurmountable miles for three interminably long days. When I finally was able to get a car and begin that two day drive home, it was a long, lonely drive, but it gave me a lot of time to think – to pray – and to treasure the things I was still able to come home to. Most of that drive was a blur, just mile after endless mile of open road.
There was, however, one incident I will never forget. Somewhere in the middle of Arkansas, a group of Hell’s Angels bikers was coming up around me. A particularly scruffy looking guy with a long beard led the pack on a big bike – rough looking. But unfurled out behind him on the bike was an enormous American flag. At that moment, for the first time in 72 hours, I felt a sense of peace – the comfort you feel inside when you know you are going – home.
Five years hence, I can still feel that ache of being separated from those I love – and still remember the warmth I felt when I saw that biker gang drive by me flying our nation’s flag. On not a few mornings since that awful day, I think how many went to work, how many boarded a plane, not realizing that they would not get to come home again. How many sacrificed their lives so that others could go home. How many still put their lives on the line every day – here and abroad – to help keep us and our loved ones safe.
We take a lot for granted in this life, nothing more cavalierly than that there will be a tomorrow to set the record straight, to right wrongs inflicted, to tell our loved ones just how precious they are. As we remember that most awful of days, and the loss of those no longer with us, let’s all take a moment to treasure what we have – and those we have to share it with still.