One Really Good 9/11 Memory
Despite the unspeakable horrors of one of the worst days in American history, I cling to one precious, precious memory of the impact of those attacks.
Maybe it was the day after or maybe it was the week after, but the nation was still reeling and tottering and trying to get used to a new definition of normal. New York and Pennsylvania were still the top news stories on the radio as I made my crawling commute down the congested Highway 280 corridor in Birmingham, Alabama.
Yes. As far away as Alabama our minds were on New York—even for those of us who had never set foot outside the South. We were crushed and broken and crying for both our fellow Americans and our definition of America.
I was wedged in traffic in the center lane behind a van loaded with a roll of carpet. The back doors of the van were open and the roll completely filled the opening, spilling out the back by several feet. When the light changed the van started to move and that giant roll of carpet fell out—not all the way out but definitely on the pavement in the middle of the road in a way that made it obvious the van wasn’t going anywhere. And on Highway 280 in Birmingham if one van isn’t moving, hundreds of people are going to be late for work.
The van’s driver and passenger (the carpet installers) got out to assess the situation and momentarily stood helplessly wondering what to do. This wasn’t just a rolled up rug. It was a massive roll of carpet big enough to cover a vast area of a commercial building. It had probably been loaded into the van with a forklift and there was probably another forklift waiting at the job site to unload it. There was no way two people could put it back in the van.
As they reached for cell phones, dumbfounded as to who they should call first, the most amazing thing happened. A four-door pickup truck loaded with surveyors was beside me, on the other side a pair of plumbers. Just ahead another truck and another set of strong arms. A sports car and a luxury sedan were also nearby driven by men dressed like they were on their way to office jobs. They all seemed to notice the situation at the same time and they caught each other’s eyes. Speaking with just their eyes and nods of their heads, they put their vehicles in park, unhooked their seatbelts, and stepped out onto the pavement. Within seconds, those strangers had joined their hands and their shoulders and lifted that huge roll of carpet back into the van. Before the carpet installers even realized what was happening their rescuers were back in their trucks and cars waiting for the light to turn green.
Because of a row of 18 wheelers behind me, other commuters on the road that morning were shielded from seeing why traffic had temporarily stalled. Drivers just one row back missed the miracle I had just witnessed. And even though I saw it, I was still in disbelief.
That one brief moment, more than any monument or memorial could ever do, told me loud and clear that my Country is still strong. That moment told me that despite an unfortunate proliferation of miscreants, terrorists, thugs, greedy bureaucrats, and deluded politicians, this country still belongs to people who care about others and try to do the right thing. And I still love America.