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  September 11, 2001

The Pentagon

During the weekend of October 20-21, 2001, Joe and I worked. I went to Joe's office with her, because, it seemed that Joe would need the company. Joe works in DC. We spent ten hours there on Saturday -- and another ten hours there on Sunday.As distracted as one tries to remain, it is impossible to think about much other than what our country was experiencing.

After leaving Joe's office on October 20th ... I felt that I had to, I needed to, go and ... actually SEE ... The Pentagon.

The truth is, it was one of the most abruptly, suddenly amazing, breath-stealing, astounding and moving experiences that I have had in a very long time. Of course I had seen it. Of course the world has seen it. Of course the TV has covered it. But there's something very ... PERSONAL ... about seeing it. Really SEEING it.

I discovered that my imagination -- and extensive as I had thought it to be -- is not large enough to even BEGIN to feel what everyone in New York MUST be feeling. There needs to be a new word created for it, because I can't find one.

The Pentagon is mere yards from where I worked ... at the Navy Annex Building ... many years ago. And the Pentagon is within 12-13 miles (as the so-called "Bird" flies) of my own home. So, as I did not suffer any loss of a personal friend or relative ... I can only say that my heart does not appear to really KNOW that. It leaped into my throat; when I finally "found" the place I needed to view. On each of my incorrect approaches (for which I can only say numbered four, out of five sides of the Pentagon!), I was anticipating, wondering, creating -- and hoping against -- my feelings. When the actual view appeared in front of me; well, I was startled to find that I truly was unable to breathe. The enormity, the depth, the loss ... it was overwhelming for me.Yet, that was only the beginning.

One can look at this fifth side of the Pentagon, the side that is obviously the most inaccessible to the public's eyes, and become lost in your own soul. It's deafeningly silent, it's murderously loud; it's very personal, yet it's incredibly public; it's painfully mine, it's blissfully shared; it's painful to the core ... and it's a salve to the heart. The truth is it's a blessedly simply definition to an unasked question: what is it like to be an American?

To go there did not feel exploitative. It felt honoring. I felt as though I was visiting, I was feeling the end of innocence ... and the beginning of a new world. The honoring of souls that were lost; yet souls that will serve to create the beginning of our new era. Those individuals must be mourned ... yet rewarded.

Simply speaking, the people of today's world -- the majority of them (including me) -- lived in wonderfully blissful ignorance. We had no true, first-hand knowledge of the pain that must be bourne by those who sacrifice for the future of our world, our lives, our beloved country.

When I was still on the grounds of the Pentagon, recomposing myself ... I used my cell phone to call my parents in Florida. My father is a retired Lt.Col. who was in the USArmy for 23 years. My mother spent many years working for the Armed Forces in a support capacity, spending her own amount of service time within or accessing the Pentagon. As I mentioned, I myself worked at the Navy Annex building -- a mere few hundred yards away -- for a part of my own innocent youthful experience.

My parents were inquisitive, asking questions about the appearance. My father asked if I had taken pictures -- they wanted to see them. No ... didn't have my camera.

Bottom line is this: the next day, Joe and I headed to DC again. She had to be at her office by 9:00am. On a Sunday morning, we left home at around 7:00am. No, it doesn't take two hours to drive there (more like 20-25 minutes). Instead, we took a detour. A bit out of the direct path, but not at all "out of the way." So many people died, so many more injured, so very many more impacted. I seriously doubt that anyone -- other than God -- has a true feeling for how very immeasurable this has been.

It's not like a "construction site," as most might assume -- having watched the television coverage. No, it's not like that at all. It's like a scene of devastation. Burns still sear the eye. Crumpled stone still covers the canvass. I've seen as much coverage, as many pictures, as many stories as just about anyone else in the world.

It's so incredibly painful to witness -- yet I felt that I had no choice but to read everything I could at each of the impromptu memorials that have arisen around the site. There are always people there. People who feel their souls; people who feed their souls; people who feel the need to enter the sadness and experience what must be a minimal part of what others might feel. It's a most silent shroud that covers the area -- so much respect. So much sadness.

By the time I left, however, the truth is, we both began to feel a sense of inspiration. Our country had sacrificed, our county had lost, our country had ... suddenly become unified.

We felt that each person who was at the Pentagon ... those days when Joe and I were there ... was there because we each owe such an unspeakable debt, so much; yet we could offer so little, other than support. The loss of others only kindles the fires of our support of the pursuit of freedom and liberty for all.

Joe and I went to the Pentagon three times that weekend. There is a certain human civility and comfort that is provided in being allowed to FEEL pain. It's mine, it's real ... and it's painful. It's so very very very ... personal.

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