Monday, September 12, 2011

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

The Attack on Pearl Harbor. The Moon Landing. John F Kennedy's Assassination. The Challenger Explosion. 

All flashbulb memories of the past, where the mind seems to almost take a picture of the moment and circumstances in which you learned the news.

For my generation, It's the World Trade Center attacks.

I would be lying if I said that before September 11, 2001 I was even aware the World Trade Center towers existed, much less their importance. I had traveled to many different fun places growing up, but we never spent much time in big cities. To give you perspective, I remember the first time I drove through Birmingham, Alabama, I was certain it was the biggest city in the country. To me they were all just skyscrapers.
Skyline pre-September 11
I was a senior at Cullman High School, sitting in my English/Lit class trying to pay attention to what I'm pretty sure was yet another paper that was due. Sometime around 8:30 that morning, class was interrupted and our teacher was told that "they'd hit the Pentagon". Well, I may not have ever heard of the World Trade Center, but gosh dangit I'm no uneducated redneck either-- I know what the Pentagon is.

We all kind of looked at each other confused and a little freaked out, and filed our way into the neighboring history teacher's classroom because he had the TV on. I remember sitting on the floor crunched in with my other classmates, watching the replays of the second plane hitting the second tower, and noticing all the reporters on CNN in disarray.

I was scared because the buildings were on fire, but still didn't quite understand the importance of the towers, and didn't understand the idea of terrorism in the USA and especially a terrorist attack. I believed that they'd put out the fires on those floors, and they'd rebuild and everything would be normal within a month's time.

Then about 20 minutes later, one of the towers fell. That was the moment that startled me to the core.

NYC Mayor Giuliani, President George W Bush and New York Gov Pataki

I thought about parents, and my younger sister and younger brother, wondering if they had heard. I thought about my grandparents, because I knew they traveled the country and hoped they weren't anywhere near the city. I thought about my Uncle, who at the time was a fireman in a different state, and hoped he didn't know anyone personally that had sacrificed their lives. Then I felt guilty because I was spared, while so many others lost so much.

A few weeks later, one of my favorite country artists of all time, Alan Jackson, sang a beautiful song about the attacks at the Country Music Awards.I'm fairly certain that there wasn't a dry eye to be found at the Grand Ole Opry that night.

Much like my friend Kate, I tried to be as normal as possible yesterday. I caught some of the memorial services, but you have to remember it was the first NFL Sunday, so ESPN was on by 10am and we were at the Eagles fan club watching the game by 1:00. 


I drank a beer. I ate a burger. I sang the Eagle's fight song four times. I ooo'd and aaah'd over Cam Newton's 422 yards. I watched replays of Auburn's close win over Mississippi State from Saturday. I checked my fantasy stats, only to be angry at myself for not replacing Chris Johnson with Tolbert (who sat on my bench and got 3 touchdowns).

I had a good old-fashioned American Sunday yesterday, and gave thanks at the end of the night that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Before and After
I would have never imagined that my then 12 year old "baby" brother would be fighting for our country 10 years later. I would have never imagined that on my girls weekend trip to New York City next month that we'd be visiting a memorial spanning 16 acres in the middle of  lower Manhattan. I would have never imagined that now every time I board a flight, and someone walks to the front of the plane, a hint of awareness overcomes me. And I never realized that I'd truly know first hand what it really means to be an American and fight for our freedom.

God Bless the USA! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

If Winning Isn't Everything, Why Do They Keep Score?

It’s a scene that plays out regularly in the fall. Masses clad in team colors descend on college campuses to join in the ritual of cheering on their favorite school in a mass of excess that includes tailgate parties, lavish recreational vehicles and oversized flags with the school crest flying as far as the eye can see. 

College football in the south is unlike any other conference I've ever witnessed. It is a religion. It's a way of life. People willingly miss huge lifetime occurrences for game-day. If you are a true southern woman, you know better than to plan your wedding/child's baptism/baby shower on a game day weekend if you want people to actually show up.

By the time I was 8, I had decided that I wanted to become a veterinarian. I had a soft spot for animals - my cat, Sugar, and Cocker Spaniel, Smokey, were the loves of my life and I wanted to take care of dogs and cats for a career. It was that point in my 8 year old mind that I figured in order to become a veterinarian, I needed to go to Auburn University, since they had the only vet school in the state.This was much to the dismay of my dad, who was a huge Alabama fan.

There are old photos of me outfitted in Crimson Tide attire from the time I was born, which would disgrace my name if they were ever to be shown to fellow Auburn alumni. For those that aren't familiar with the Auburn/Alabama rivalry, and the fierce college football game known as the Iron Bowl,  you have to understand that it is not just one game. It is a 365-day a year obsession that tears the state in two. Take the Ohio-State Michigan game, or the Eagles-Cowboys game, multiply it by 5, and add the spirit and the passionate following of the SEC, and that's a glimpse into the realm of what is known as the SEC. It was publicized a lot last year due to the poisoning of the trees at Toomer's Corner by one outraged fan. While I don't believe that any educated, self-respecting fan would do something dreadful to another, it just shows how deep down this rivalry really runs.

Toomer's Corner after Auburn won the Iron Bowl, 2010

For me, I am a rare Auburn breed because while I do want to beat the Crimson out of the Crimson Tide on the field, I don't wish evil upon their fans. I grew up with a respect for the Tide because of my dad's love for them, and also because of my best friend's love for them (she later graduated from the University of Alabama and now works for them too). We have a mutual understanding of one another and have remained best friends through the trials and tribulations of past seasons, and with both of us getting back-to-back Heismans and National Championships there was lots of smack talk going on that we had to remain calm about. (Plus, our other best friend is a Florida Gator, so if we are all to remain friends, we must remain civil).

Proof of our friendship, even on game day - Iron Bowl 2005

This weekend marks the beginning of my favorite time of the year- football season. Fire up the grill for some tailgate treats. Stash your bourbon in your pocketbook, put on your best dress (in team colors) and throw on your favorite heels and pearls. 

It's game time, y'all.