Saturday, September 12, 2009

Of Being American: Idle

Unfortunately, like anything else, the further away we get from the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the less palpable our raw emotions from that day feel. A mere eight years later, local Patriot Day celebrations are simply headline fodder now, lost in the shuffle with stories about political bipartisanship, celebrity scandal, and sports scores -- you know, like it's every day we honor a sudden terrorist attack on America's soil. Oh, don't mistake my self-righteous tone with patriotic legitimacy; I barely acknowledged Patriot Day, too. Fortunately, like anything else, sometimes something has to be shoved in your face to remind you how important it is.

Last night, a coworker and I volunteered at a fundraiser in Dana Point, California that raised money for our nonprofit effort, along with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project. We were excited because the experience promised little real work and the high chance for a celebrity encounter or two, and it delivered on both fronts, as I giddily met American Idol Bo Bice (and heard Brooke White and Elliot Yamin perform) and my coworker met boxing champ Sugar Ray Leonard, sportscaster Roy Firestone, and Sopranos star (and his presumed look-alike) Steve Schirripa.

Yet, despite these beloved stars taking the stage during the event's more formal ceremonies, I couldn't help but recoil at who really brought the crowd to a standing ovation: a representative from the Wounded Warriors Project, who spoke briefly but succinctly about how the non-profit came to his aid after an unexpected IED encounter blew off his legs, shattered his jaw, and ultimately resulted in some 60 surgeries to have his body repaired. The soldier spoke of the backpack Wounded Warriors initially provided him, with clothes and (most strikingly to me) a deck of cards, all of which, he claimed, mean the world when one is alone in the hospital. For a moment I put myself in his place, having a deck of cards as my only recreational luxury in the world. No comics? No toys? No blogging on the Internet? And I complain when I can't get a strong wireless connection . . .

Oh, and Charlie Duke was there, one of only twenty men who have landed on the moon! He too was warmly received, and while many were obviously enthralled with the American Idols' performances, only the Wounded Warriors Projected and Charlie Duke brought the audience to an absolute hush.

In the face of a roomful of celebrities, and how starstruck any of us can get, I was grateful for the brief wake-up call. Helps put things in perspective. From my meager voluntarism as a fellow non-profit employee, to the corporate financial contributions of an auction, to the inspiring words of real war and space heroes, to musical performance . . . when the various dimensions of everyday American life work together, despite the apparent contrasts in their global significance, something special can happen -- even if that something special is simply reminding one frequently close-minded person like me of that potential's possibility.

1 comment:

johnny_justice said...

Russ in a suit...the terrorists win--the terrorists win.