9/11: Shared sacrifice, honor, binds us together
On Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 11 a.m., community members will gather at the 9/11 Spirit of America Memorial in Cashmere to pay homage to those who lost their lives and those who risked everything to help others. The memorial epitomizes what it means to be a community. It’s a remarkable place created because of a sense of patriotism, shared sacrifice and a desire to instill a sense of hope for generations to come.
I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice lately. A few days ago, I wrote a column about the Honor By Listening program in our valley that connected veterans and students as well as the 2001 reunion of senior prisoners of war from the Hanoi Hilton. As part of the reunion, we spent time at the Cashmere Museum, a stone’s throw from the 9/11 Memorial.
In that column, I wrote about the two senior POWs who couldn’t attend — the late Sen. John McCain and the late Vice Adm. James Stockdale.
By happenstance, I ran across a reference yesterday to both Stockdale and McCain in a book titled “The Daily Stoic: 365 meditations on wisdom, perseverance and the art of living.”
The meditation for Sept. 6 talks about Stockdale having his arms pinned behind his back while he was pulled by a chain toward the ceiling, repeatedly wrenching them out of their sockets. McCain, who suffered the same abuse, was repeatedly offered by his captors to abandon his men and be sent home early, but he refused to soil his honor.
“He, too, held tightly to his freedom of choice, declining to submit to that temptation,” the passage reads. It continued: “None of these men broke. No one could make them sacrificed their principles. That’s the thing — someone can throw you in chains, but they don’t have the power to change who you are…. our power over our own mind our power to make our own decisions can’t be broken — only relinquished.”
The POWs who visited our valley and told their stories to the students inspired another generation of souls. What I didn’t realize when I wrote the column was the connection between Eastmont teacher Allison Agnew and John McCain, who’s father (John S. McCain Sr.) was an admiral at the time of his capture.
“My father went to the Naval Academy and was Admiral McCain’s personal aide during Vietnam while Senator McCain was a POW,” she told me in an email. “Frank Gamboa (Senator McCain’s roommate at The Naval Academy) was the one to make all of the arrangements with me for the visit with the students. They all remained friends for more than 60 years.”
At the memorial service on Tuesday at the Cashmere Riverside Center plaza, I will be thinking about the local veterans, the POWs who visited, McCain and Stockdale, the first responders during 9/11 and the first responders who put their lives on the line daily.
I will also think about all of the individuals who, in small or significant ways, make sacrifices for or contributions to the greater good. Every day, we can make that choice. I’m proud to live in a place where that is part of our DNA.