My wife and I were on our way to pick up our Grandson Jack last Saturday, when we came upon a parade in our local town of Waterville. We pulled up to the traffic lights behind a cruiser, and sat there for over an hour, as the parade precession passed by. This was a state wide event from what we heard. It was a tribute parade for fire and rescue personnel from all points of the state. There were a number of floats in the parade as well. Some of them depicted the skyline of New York City before the tragic events of September 11th.
We sat there through the parade, and as she told me of the different towns that were in the parade, we cried and laughed and remembered and were grateful. We were grateful that we lived in such a great country and had the chance to call these brave men and women, Americans. We were even more grateful that we too were Americans, and that our son and grandson were Americans.
There is no better country on the face of the earth, and there has never ever been.
Such a selfless act of giving is unmatched except by our military. This wasn’t about the military though. This was about the first responders, and their sacrifice every day.
One thing that really struck home with me during the parade was when my wife told me of a little boy standing on the street corner near where we were. He was dressed in full fireman’s gear, right down to the oxygen tank and full faced fireman’s helmet. He even had the boots on. This little fireman stood there for the full amount of time that we were there. He stood there on that street corner, never moving, except to wave at the paraders as they proceeded by. It was a sight to behold, and if I could have, I would have gone over and given him a big old bear hug. He doesn’t know it, but he stole a piece of my heart that day. His father stood behind him the whole time waving an American flag with one hand, and the other was on the little boys shoulder. Such a truly wonderful and inspirationally uplifting sight.
There was a military jet flying over head during the parade, and kept buzzing the areas of the parade. It was an awesome sound hearing the jet coming in low and fast as it swooped down and around the city.
The parade was loaded with antique fire trucks and emergency vehicles all the way from the county, clear down to Boston. As the trucks and other vehicles rolled by, the sirens were blaring and the bells were ringing. The air horns is what seemed to have the biggest effect on me. I don’t know why, but when they lay on those air horns, something rips through my soul. It seems to send a message of sheer urgency through me. It was truly an amazing display of honor and gave us such a sense of pride.
I remember that dark day ten years ago as if it were yesterday, and I will never forget the waves of emotion that swept through me. Emotions from fear, to anger, to hope and love and gratitude. So many emotions passed through me during those long worrisome days. I truly believe that those days changed me, and changed our country. I just hope that no matter what ever happens to this country, we can remain united as one. We need to. We have to.
Before I get totally side tracked with emotion, I must tell you that this parade that we happened upon, was one of the best events I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. There was so much to it. My wife was writing down the different towns that were involved with the parade, and the list was long. All four corners of the state were, representing their towns and communities for such a wonderful event.
There were men’s and women’s auxiliaries there with many men and women who had given a life of devoted service. Then there was the singing fireman.
This guy was also dressed up in full fireman’s gear, complete with oxygen tank. He had a wireless microphone that was transmitting into a float behind him with a speaker system. He was singing patriotic songs, and really put on quite a show. Truly inspiring.
There were old water pumps and water cannons on small platforms with the old style wagon wheels that were being pushed and pulled by firemen. These units must have weighed a ton, but they pushed the pumps and cannons up over the hill near the top of Upper Main Street. I can’t imagine how they did it, but they did. These guys had to be in pretty good shape. I would have died in the process, and would have had to stop at the top of the hill to get a McDonalds sweet tea to replenish my non boyish figure. Smile. Every hundred yards or so, they would stop, and proceed to demonstrate how the cannons worked, shooting a stream of water high into the air and onto the street in front of them.
I hope to God that none of us ever forget the mindless torture of the people in the towers and on the planes and in the pentagon on that day. The tributes must go on forever, not only for this day in history, but for all of the events that have helped shape this country. From the revolution, to the civil wars, up on through WWI and II, never forgetting Viet Nam, or any other war that this country has sent our bravest into.
I remember that day back in 2001. I remember the feeling of being unsure, and I did not like it. One thing that I was sure of though, was that the sacrifices of the Americans on that day would never be forgotten or overlooked by me, for as long as I live.
As the trucks in the parade rolled by, one by one, I thought of the memories of the faces that were walking away from the towers on that morning after they had collapsed. The faces covered in soot and dust and anguish. As the trucks rolled by, one at a time, I remember the visions of the towers falling. I remember the hole that was left in the sky. The hole will be there forever, but it is now a hole full of hope and pride and courage and fortitude. It is a hole filled with the memories of the past, and the dreams of tomorrow.
God Bless the first responders, the men and women who serve our communities. We would not be who we are without you.
God Bless You All, and may He keep you safe.