When I was a little girl, we stood in class with our hands held over our hearts and said the Pledge of Allegiance. I never thought much about it as it was part of a daily 'routine'. I don't even think I comprehended what it meant.
Patriotism, until September 11, 2001, was just a word to me. I knew I loved my country and was thankful to live here, but being an American didn't evoke the feelings within me that it does today.
Today, I think I know for the first time what it feels like to be an American. And I'm proud.
I am proud to be an American when I see such bravery in the face of incomprehensible disaster. I am proud to be an American when I witness strangers holding their hands out to one another and offering their hearts. I am proud to be an American when I see the American flag everywhere and I think to myself, "That's my country -- our country."
And, I am proud to be an American when I see masses of people reach out to God together in prayer. Prayer for those who have lost. Prayer for those who are assisting and breaking their backs to do whatever they can to help. Prayer for our military as they defend this great country of ours.
I can honestly say that it took this terrible disaster to make me realize, truly realize how very blessed we all are to be living in this country. It also made me feel much more connected as a nation and as a planet. I am not wishing that this tragedy ever happened, so please don't misunderstand. But, I was literally jolted from life as I knew it and suddenly realized what was at stake and what we lost. It made me value the United States of America more than I ever have in my life.
We are a changed nation -- a changed world. I am a changed person.
We are reaching out to strangers when we may not have before. We cry for those we do not know because we share the common bond of being Americans. Yes, we are also fearful. But, through the thick fog of fear we are lighting a candle within ourselves. The candle of hope -- and it's shining brightly for the entire world to see.
We are sharing in our faith like we never have before. It matters not what denomination we are -- what matters is that we are holding tight to the belief that God will get us through this and I see it every day. In candle light vigils. On the television. On cars driving down the street with flags blowing proudly in the wind. In public places where people are gathering to pray, unashamed of their faith and eager to display it. In store windows where there are signs that simply say, "Pray."
"God bless America. Land that I love. Stand beside Her, and guide Her." That song now has meaning to me, where before it was simply a song.
In the depths of my heart I know what it feels like to be an American and I do love this country and its people with all my heart. I ask God to bless us all, to bless the world, to protect everyone from acts of terror and destruction, and to once again bless America.
© Ellen M. DuBois
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