United we stand

‚United We Stand’ say the bumper stickers on every other car and truck that I pass on my way to school.

‚America United’, ‚9/11/01 – We will remember’, ‚God Bless America’. Flags: blue, white, and red flags everywhere, on cars, in windows, on t-shirts, by the McDonald’s drive-through entrances, in the sugar cookies in the Albertson’s grocery store.

So much has already been written about the events of September 11, so many discussions, analyses and predictions. Is there anything left? Is there anything to be added? Let the professional journalists, politicians and political scientists discuss the issue of war and terrorism in the world. Let me share with you afew observations of someone who just happened to be on this side of the ocean at this tragic time.

September 13th 2001.

A group of, 15 maybe 20 young people, university students, have gathered around the fountain. People walking through the campus can’t miss the scene. Some walk by, some join the quiet crowd. They didn’t come here to discuss the latest campus events. They did not plan this meeting. They just felt like being together. No one wants to be alone today. Fear, sadness, anger, sympathy for the victims and emotions that gathered with them are too strong to be hidden. They hold hands and pray. They didn’t come here to discuss. There are no words that could describe this shared feeling. Prayer ends and after a few seconds of silence. Jennie Long, freshman, biology major, starts singing ‚Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light’ Soon other voices join her and the group, hand-in-hand sing the American national anthem. One can see tears in their eyes. One can see honesty. Many of them for the first time fully understand the words of this beautiful song. Walking back to class I see many students lined up in front of the university health center. They want to give blood, do something, help. Someone has found some color chalk and drawn a red, blue and white flag on the cafeteria stairs.

November 8th 2001.

America has returned to its normal life. The anthrax scare being the most frequent topic of discussion doesn’t feed on graphic images similar to those seen on television in mid-September. Emotions have cooled down. And the symbols? The symbols are blooming. Little flag-pins can be found in every super-market, gas station and convenience store. It has become stylish to wear one together with the American flag tie, or (version for teenagers) T-shirt. ‚It’s not too late to buy the flag and show your support,’ says an e-banner that pops up on my screen when I check my e-mail. TV programming stays filled with car and truck ads, every dealer’s promotion urging us to ‚Keep America Rolling!’. World Trade Center memorabilia reach the highest prices on eBay – America’s most popular auction Web site.

I don’t want to sound sarcastic or cynical. My point is not easy to make. I have the feeling that the young generation of this country is just about to lose something very important, something priceless. The tragic events of September 11th helped the people of my generation to find or rediscover their national identity, and unite under the patriotic symbols that they had earlier rejected. I hope that they, won’t let anyone take it away from them. I hope that they will remember.

Wojtek Lewandowski


bumper sticker nalepka na zderzak
freshman student pierwszego roku
to line up zbierać się
to bloom rozkwitać
convenience store sklepik wielobranżowy
to reject odrzucać