“American Heroes” By Julia Hollenbeck © 2001

2001 November(This was originally published on November 2001)

Shock, disbelief, horror, despair, anger, and a sadness only an American would know, were immediate feelings that swirled around my mind, while worrying about the safety of my nephew, Robert Thomas Jordan, who was on the 104th floor of the North Tower. It was on September 11th, 2001 when the scene unfolded on television of the collapsing of the World Trade Centers where Robert worked. Amid tears streaming down the faces of Americans, anger engulfed many, and the realization of being completely helpless slowly sank in while thinking about packing and driving to New York to search for Robert Jordan. These frantic thoughts were mere dreams, in reality there was nothing to be done except to wait for word. Knowing there were others experiencing the same frustrations did not help with these engulfed feelings. Watching the countless efforts of true American Heroes search for days for the missing, continued the hope until finally realizing ground zero was indeed, “Ground Zero”.

How the World Trade Center’s collapse could have been stopped, was only theory in perspective, and non-conclusive because it was too late. The damage started during the past six years, while terrorists invaded our country, were educated unknowingly, and ultimately planned an attack against us. Were we sleeping? Military Pride took hold and silently screamed out, “How could we let down the Paralyzed Veterans of America and our other American Heroes from yesteryears…only to face this today?”

Anger, frustrations, the safety of children bombarded thoughts once pleasant, but most of all, duty as a parent and an American citizen were uppermost in mind. It was without a doubt, though not a relished idea and in fact frightening, thoughts of sons going to war if need be was readiness in waiting. Feeling there was something terribly wrong with the cycle of life inflicted by people who lived in our country, who smiled on the outside and grew bombs on the inside, was a distracting ever-present thought. While fearing for the safety of our United States, we call America, people we know as American’s, our children, and others loved dearly… War was imminent.

A stop to terrorist attacks would now finally begin after years of American lives continuously shattered and destroyed, time after time, both in America and on foreign soil, this time it was at the greatest cost ever. Watching the news in eager anticipation as the unity of America and our government shined, our military forces began moving forward. It was not an easy task to accept, while knowing two military sons could be in the middle of it, but thoughts of only one thing led to the honest truth: If we did not do something now about terrorism, America would be destroyed and so would the lives of our children’s children, and others who followed. After all, what more did we, as a whole, have to lose? Americans have been banged up, cut-up, thrown in wheelchairs, and left to die. They suffered the greatest of horror stories ever imagined on war fronts, lost children, sweethearts, friends, spouses, and members of their families, both on foreign soil and in our own country. Yet, Americans have fought wars to aid foreigners, given food, and helped others survive, only to have their hand that feeds bitten. The time had come. It was yesterday, and tomorrow is here.

The birth of an American Hero does not just happen; they are all around us in every beat of a moment, and in every heart that thumps. We depend on these heroes every day, but we seem to forget they exist until the very moment something happens to allow their star to shine: A life is saved, or a hero loses his or her life, trying to save someone from dying. Heroes include most anyone and everyone from firemen to police officers to active and in-active military, to physicians, and yes, to just the ordinary man next door who may just save your life some day.

There is no doubt the true American Hero is the person who carries the heaviest load and readily serves his country on a daily basis, always on alert, always ready, and always willing to put his life on the line. How can we ever repay these heroes for what they have done for us? The time to start waving flags is always; we should never stop. The heroes: Past, present, and future, working for the common good of everyone, because without them, we would have nothing.

Julia Hollenbeck is an advocate for people with disabilities. Visit her website at http://www.WheelMeOn.org for more information on her work.

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