... All because she was exercising her right to freedom of speech.
Someday I might regret those actions, but I hope not, and certainly NOT today. On another day, I might have ignored her words - but NOT today! Someday I might choose to apologize, but I doubt it - and it would NOT be today!
This particular morning, as has been the case the past seven mornings that have fallen on this date, television was providing images of memorial services which were being held at Ground Zero in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and on a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
This morning was no different than the previous Sept. 11 memorials. I was deeply touched. I was saddened at the images of surviving friends and families of those who were lost on that tragic day. My own eyes shared their tears.
I placed an American flag on my truck's antenna and headed off to work. Along the way I stopped at a convenience store to pick up the newspaper. Across the street was a small public park. There were several patriotic signs, red-white-and-blue banners and American flags on display.
What appeared to be about a hundred people were gathered around a small stage. A small group of musicians sat in chairs on the field to the left of the stage and were playing America the Beautiful. Several police officers were milling about the crowd.
I decided to pick up a cup of coffee along with the newspaper. I tossed the paper in my truck and crossed the street to check out the public display of patriotism. It was nice to see that small town paying homage to Sept. 11. Perhaps one day, this day will be made a National Holiday.
I was about ten feet from the stage when a pretty young woman approached a microphone. I couldn't helped but notice that she was of some Middle Eastern origin. Of which nationality she might have been, I had no idea. They all look the same to me. (Yes, I'm echoing sentiments once used four and five decades ago.)
She was an eloquent speaker. (I will paraphrase from memory as best I can her words.)
"On this sad day, September eleven, two thousand and eight, you are here to honor and to remember those innocent men and women who died on this date seven years ago.She paused and looked around at the people there and smiled at the sound of scattered applause. I just nodded. I remembered reading that there were some Muslims who worked and died in the World Trade Center towers.
I am here to remember and to remind you that there were those of the faith of Islam who also perished on this date seven years ago."
"Like the others who died that day, they did not choose to die tragic deaths. Unlike the others, they were chosen."WTF? There were several gasps around me and people were looking at each other quizzically.
"They did not choose to be aboard those planes. They were chosen to carry out the wishes of Allah."There were some "f-bombs" being shouted from the back of the crowd. Someone threw a bottle of water which barely missed hitting her in the head.
"They entered the cockpits of those planes by the will of Allah. They must not be forgotten."
I don't know if it was an emotional response. Maybe it was the developing mob mentality. Whatever the force that drove me, it was laced with anger at the audacity of that woman.
I leaped easily the two feet from the ground onto the stage. I slammed the coffee cup and what was left of its hot contents at her feet. Almost nose to nose I yelled at her:
"How dare you! We are here to honor American victims - not f**kin' terrorists! There is no honor in the will of your Allah!"With that, I shoved her away from the mike. She fell backward and landed on her rear end. She tried to keep her skirt from riding up even as her momentum was rolling her onto her back. She then rolled off the stage onto the ground face down. I saw that she was unable to control the upward shift of her skirt. (I mused, wondering if Allah would approve of such a tiny pink thong.) I clenched my fists and yelled at her again:
"If you want to honor your suicide cowards, do it elsewhere. Not here! Not today!"I was beginning to cool off a bit when I realized the people in the crowd were applauding. They were applauding me! I blushed and pulled off my cap which was emblazoned with the head of an eagle against the background of the American flag on the front of it, and acknowledged the crowd.
It suddenly sunk in what I had just done. I began to panic and jumped off the stage. I remembered that there were police officers there, so I decided I should beat it the hell out of there.
I was too late, one of the cops was in my path. He said to me, "She might try to charge you with assault, sir. I didn't see which way you went." He had a big grin on his face. He stepped aside and started clapping his hands and said, "Good job. Now get out of here."
Who am I to argue with an officer of the law? BY the time I was moving along in my truck the people who had been on the field were exiting the park en masse. The other policemen were stopping traffic both ways to allow the pedestrians to cross. A hand rapped against my window. It was the same officer who'd sent me on my way.
He pointed at my cap. I removed it and tossed on the floor board. I rolled down the window. He said, "If you end up in court, I'll testify that I saw the man who assaulted her and that you were not he."
I drove away and experienced and otherwise normal routine the rest of the day. It did cross my mind that somewhere in that crowd today, there might have been someone with a camera or a camcorder. My atypical act of patriotism just may have been captured. I can only hope that it does not show up as a picture in a local newspaper - or perish the thought, as a video on Utube.
Twelve hours have passed and so far I have felt no regret or guilt.
Some of you might not appreciate my display of patriotic pride. If you do or don't, the following might fill you with a sense of pride:
It was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center.
It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft.
Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, LA to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept 9, 2003, "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence," recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. "It was a spiritual moment for everybody there."
Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the "hair on my neck stood up." "It had a big meaning to it for all of us," he said. "They knocked us down. They can't keep us down. We're going to be back."
The ship's motto?