I believe most grow up admiring a hero or an idol, a conglomeration of their hopes and aspirations.
As far back as I can remember, I was in awe of her. She was the type to attract people of all backgrounds.
Unlike many her age and even older, she welcomed people, gave them hope that no matter how insurmountable the challenge, dreams are attainable, the pursuit of happiness is possible.
Enamored by her grace as she faced scrutiny, always holding her head high despite judgment and ridicule, I wanted desperately to know more about her. I watched how she remained the center of attention, enduring expectations of so many at once. I saw her betrayed, belittled, and let down by those trusted to speak on her behalf.
Yet, she stood firm, committed to helping many find a better life.
Over the years, she remained my hero. Time did very little to change my mind; if anything, it solidified my opinion.
She stumbled, veering towards paths uncertain and dark, but still carried herself in such a way that intrigued many. Complicated it must have been to shoulder such weight, hopes, and dreams of all of those about her.
She wasn’t perfect, but she never failed to reach out to the tired, the poor. Occasionally I saw her sway but never bend.
Not until the day she broke.
In the clear morning sun, helplessly, I watched them try to destroy her. Their violent attack brutalized her, leaving her vulnerable, piercing her with every blow.
Faithful friends ran fiercely to her defense, using their bodies to shield her from further injury. With each tear that fell down her stoic face, pain rippled across the once intact world, bringing tidal waves of change.
The images of all for which she had worked, all that she had built … crumbling, destroying the lives of huddled masses. She cried out in the voices of mothers holding children, warriors that served faithfully, and those that sought refuge beneath her stars in their darkest hour.
Cries that riveted all that we knew, poignantly disrupting the protection of her shield. Disoriented and shaken, moments of despair, disbelief shattered confidence and calm. Astonishing all that know her, she lay wounded at the hands of hate.
From near and far, they came running to help her stand. Refusing defeat, the best among us carried her until their last steps, vowing vengeance. Ordinary men and women became extraordinary in an instant, defending her to the death.
Disagreements dissipated, bonds strengthened with a collective purpose – to see her rise. Knees bruised from prayer. Men and women were leaving all they knew to defend her honor.
Streets adorned with pride, people taking down fences to better see the needs of their neighbors — colors of allegiance honored with dignity acknowledging the brave and connecting friend to foe, brother to brother. United, we stood.
Twenty years ago, I saw her fall. The worst of humanity brought out the best of humanity all in the very same day. The pain, palpable as the rubble of destruction, in the hearts of all those who loved her, caused a flood of tears drowning normalcy and sending peace in search of higher ground. Our star-spangled banner yet waved as planted on the debris of freedom interrupted and in solidarity of grief.
The attack wounded the American way, her spirit ignited, her rage unmatched.
Sept. 11, 2001, a day that darkens our history, led to days that illuminated it. It was dawn’s early light on Sept. 12, 2001, that gave truth to our fight, resolve to our nation, and a resurgence of the brave. Lest we forget the power of the united as we find our way home from the uncertain and dark paths of a nation divided.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford is the owner/founder of SugarBelle, a long-time real estate broker and a lover of the obscurities of southern culture. To contact her with praise and adoration, email CCWIslandNews@gmail.com. To complain, call your local representative.