Written by Len Abram
How do we measure time, its passing? Trees add rings to their core. In fractal shapes, twigs and roots reach up to the sky and down into the earth, to grow taller and deeper.
Calendars and clocks are common devices of time. The decay of atoms and leaves, however, also work, while the motion of planets and moons, even stars and galaxies, their arcs and orbits, these measure too.
None will mean as much to a parent as watching a child grow.
Many of us as youngsters have stood at a wall or in a doorframe as mother or father penciled in a mark with height and a date. Around the following year, you lined up again to see your progress, another pencil mark to show how much you grew.
Paul Friedman was one of the Belmont residents killed on Sept. 11, 2001. He left behind a wife and an infant. Because he was one of thousands murdered that day, Paul did not get to raise his son, Rocky, whom he and his wife adopted from South Korea in 2001. Paul, among so many other events and milestones, missed the chance to measure and mark the boy’s growth.
Rocky is now 12 years old, soon to be a teenager and not far from young man. In the photograph accompanying this story, Rocky is pointing to his father’s name on a plaque. The memorial, one of many across the country, is in Stirling, NJ, where Rocky visited this summer.
It’s been 12 years since terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers and damaged the Pentagon. They crashed three aircraft into buildings full of people and another into a field in Pennsylvania. The destruction cost nearly 3,000 dead.
Today, Rocky’s mother remarried and moved with the boy to another state. Still, his mother and her husband make sure that the boy is aware of his adoptive father. They brought Rocky to this memorial, even though he may be too young to understand the full meaning of the events that took his father’s life.
He is not alone: adults are still grappling with understanding the significance of 9/11. What have we learned and how have we grown? Every anniversary asks us, as individuals or a nation. It would be easy or certainly easier to relegate the date for a moment of sad reflection, to sigh and – to use a worn out expression – to move on. After 12 years, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, it seems reasonable that we can start to relax our guard. That was then, the past, and this is now.
Up until last April, 9/11 might have been then, the past, but it is again, now. The Boston Marathon bombings, the killing of MIT police officer Sean Collier, and the shootout with terrorists a few miles from Belmont Center; these events alert us to the threats we still face. We have a duty to remind ourselves of the tragic deaths of Paul Friedman, Carlos Montoya, Ted Hennessey, Lisa Fenn Gordenstein, and so many others, to honor them, of course, but also to refuel our courage.
Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and another Friedman, economist Milton, have used similar phrasing and the same sentiment.
At his farewell address as president, Andrew Jackson said:
“But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. “