It seems unbelievable, it was 19 years ago, when on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was getting ready for work, and as was the norm my bedroom TV was blaring the morning news. Suddenly came a special report, telling of a commercial jetliner flying into New York’s World Trade Center North Tower. As I sat down in disbelief, I intensely watched and listened to the news story unfold. It was just 15 minutes later, and the world witnessed a second plane fly into the World Trade Center South Tower in vivid color, right before our eyes.
At first, I like many others was confused and bewildered. One plane crashing into a building might be an accident, but two had to be much more. I hurried to finish getting dressed, jumped in my truck and headed for JPL, only to find the facility closed and locked down. So, I drove back home at a much slower and more somber pace. A third plane crashing into the Pentagon, and a fourth, Flight 93, crashing in Pennsylvania were already being reported. By about two and a half hours from when it all began, both World Trade Center towers had collapsed, causing damage and fires to several surrounding buildings.
It was immediately recognized the toll in human life would be significant, but when the assessments were completed, 2,900 innocent people had perished and 6,000 more had been injured.
During the drive home, I became angry and frustrated. Not only because of what happened that day, but because I remembered the first terrorist attempt to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993 also. Yet what could an individual, 3,000 miles away from the tragedy, do? I wanted to show my support for those individuals in harm’s way, as well as my love of our country. At the time, I typically took out my American flag and displayed it on holidays, but at that instant my behavior was about to change. As soon as I arrived home, I mounted the flagpole in a place of honor in the front of my house. Right then, I vowed an American flag will fly at my address, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Yet I wanted to show my solidarity even further, so I decided to let the flag fly a full year before replacing it, on the morning of Sept. 11. As you might imagine, over the course of a year, my flag became tattered and torn by the wind. As I watch it day to day, it reminds me of the toll it takes on the men and women of our armed forces and our communities’ first responders, in their effort to keep us safe. It seems the world is filled with those who wish to do us harm.
But I still did not believe I had accomplished enough. So, at the end of each flag’s service year, I do not retire my flags, instead I mark them with the year they served, fold them carefully, and provide them a place of honor in my office. On the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, our local Elks Lodge organized a 911 tribute where I displayed all 10 of my flags. I honored them for their service, by having them fly once more, while thinking of our brave service members. Next year, I intend to do it again, for all 20 of my flags, on the 20th anniversary.
Today, in 2020, I realize a good portion of our population was not even born 19 years ago, and it seems many of our educational institutions have shifted from enlightening their students on what is good about our country to instead exaggerating the opposite.
In 2006, I fulfilled a lifelong goal, and with my wife Pam in the passenger’s seat, we rode our red Harley from Orange County to Washington, D.C., with 800 other (RunForTheWall.org) riders, in support of Vietnam veterans. Almost at the end of the ride we visited Rainelle, West Virginia, where the memory of our armed forces’ service was not only remembered but also honored.
While we were in town, students competed to see how many service members’ signatures they could accumulate, while thanking each service member for their time in uniform. We should be remembering all our local service veterans in the same way.
Today, a permanent flagpole stands in my front yard, and a tattered and torn service-hardened American flag was replaced by a perfect new one. Each year, I smile as the stars and stripes shine brightly in the sun, as I remember to say, “God bless the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave.”
Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.