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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 and the National Freedom Walk

Before leaving for work today, I dug out my American flag to hang in my window. When I put it up, I tuck the flag between the vertical blinds and the glass as I have no balcony. It works pretty well – you can see it from the sidewalk even though it’s on the 8th floor.

I didn’t move to the DC area until 2005, so all I can do is imagine what it was like that day 6 years ago at the Pentagon. To honor the memory of those we lost that day and to remember why we have boots on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, I volunteered to coordinate a Soldiers’ Angels booth at the end of the National Freedom Walk on Sunday morning. They’ve had the walks in honor of 9/11 victims and our men and women fighting in the Global War on Terror since 2005. SA and 20 other home-front support organizations were invited to have booths after the walk in the Pentagon’s South Parking lot. The walk in DC went from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon. I had to skip the walk so that the table would be set up and ready for when the first people arrived. About 10,000 people participated in the DC walk, although only a portion of the walkers stayed for the festivities at the end. American Supports You sponsors the event and had invited members of the Harlem Gospel Choir as the main performers as well as a country singer, John Luskey, and the Army Jazz Ambassadors. A really good show - the Harlem Gospel Choir opened with “Amazing Grace” (which I love) with a bagpipe intro and accompaniment which was awe inspiring. There is just something about bagpipe music that sneaks in and grabs a hold of my heart each time I hear it.

I got interviewed three times while waiting for the walkers to arrive, and the Pentagon Channel/America Supports You website did an article and a photo essay that each feature a picture of our booth! How cool! Check them out as the quality of their pictures is terrific:

Photo Essay

Article on home front groups

I met all kinds of people that morning; one guy had recently returned home from 18 months in Afghanistan and was looking for an address to send a thank you note to Soldiers’ Angels for the support he and his guys received while deployed! I met those with sons and daughters about to deploy, people interested in being Angels, and a Marine carrying two American flags – one flag had all the names of the fallen emergency services personnel who died on 9/11 and the other had the names of all the others who died in the twin towers, the Pentagon, and airplanes on 9/11. Really classy looking flags. And he told me that he’d just met the parents of a man who died in the Pentagon, who’d taken the time to find their son’s name on the flag. Pretty special for them and that Marine.

I had decided to take a bunch of holiday cards to have at the booth so that we could invite folks to write a note for the holiday care packages for the 3ID. We got about 75 cards, and I was touched by those who spent several minutes writing a long note. This card was particularly popular with the younger boys (ha!) – gotta love Hallmark’s Shoebox greeting cards.

Our booth neighbors, the ladies representing the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, were very gracious when people started using their table to write holiday notes! The ladies manning that booth are in the picture below. Operation Helmet was directly behind us. Nice neighbors!

It was a good event all around, and I had a fellow Angel, Camille, join me in staffing the booth after she did the walk. Two other Angels stopped by, one of whom took the photo of Camille and me below. The booth turned out pretty well, even though I was kind of winging it. I used Angel shirts as “signs/banners”, and I made up a flyer and took it to a local print shop on Saturday morning (last minute!). The owner was working, and he was awesome. He gave me a discount “because it was for a good cause” and stopped work on another job to get all mine done. Nice, huh?

Like those Angel shirts? If you’d like one of your own, go to http://www.angelsstore.org/. All proceeds are donations to support Angel operations!

A fitting end to this post, taps has just finished playing across the highway at Ft Myer/Arlington Cemetery. It’s days like to today when I tear up just a little during this daily ritual. God Bless America.

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