LeRoy Collins Commentary 219

Commentary #219
13 September 2008

9/11 is very personal

Some suggest the 9/11 date each year has less significance because seven years have elapsed since that awful day when 19 young Islamic terrorists hijacked four U.S. airliners in the eastern U.S. and crashed them into the World Trade Center buildings in NYC, ....plus the Pentagon in WASHDC,.....plus an attempt on the U.S. Capitol (or the White House). These 19 evil people succeeded in killing almost 3000 innocent Americans within 90 minutes.....using "weapons" (airliners) they seized for their despicable deeds.

These events were so spectacularly horrific in 2001, it is hard for me to imagine them lapsing in any American's memory, whether or not they knew any of those killed on that day of infamy. I knew two....

A former shipmate, Rear Admiral Wilson "Bud" Flagg, U.S. Navy Reserve (retired) and his wife were on American Airlines Flt 77 that Tuesday morning. They had attended his Class of '61 Reunion at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD just days before, and they boarded at Dulles Airport outside WASHDC for a trip to California to visit the family of one of their children. Their tragic fate became sealed that morning......

In addition to being a former Navy fighter pilot who flew combat in Viet Nam, Bud Flagg had recently retired as a pilot with American Airlines, so he had flown that SAME PLANE in the past!

The next thing you need to know about Bud Flagg was that he was a very large and physical man, perhaps 6'5" and perhaps 250 lbs.....a great friend, but an intimidating adversary.

I do not know what happened during the last minutes of that flight before it crashed into the Pentagon killing all on board plus 130 in the Pentagon, but I would bet it happened over Bud Flagg's already dead body.

So I shall never forget 9/11, partly because I shall never forget my friend, Admiral Bud Flagg. But there is much more about 9/11 I remember, .......and this is happy; it is my Mother's birthday, and day before yesterday was her 97th!!!

In the last two years Mom has become blind from glaucoma, which she has treated for perhaps 50 years. Because of the blindness, she is very unsteady on her feet, so she depends upon us for guidance with her walker.

For many years, we made her birthday a cause for big celebration, especially the 90th, which we celebrated with a brass band and patriotic parade of families dressed in red-white & blue around the back yard......on the Sunday preceeding the now infamous 9/11/01. It was a glorious day which she, her children, grandchildren, and many great grandchidren will remember forever. It is a good thing we held her BIG DAY ahead of the BAD ONE just two days later.

Well into her 90s she was doing well, while living at home alone (she did not desire full-time help; my sisters were just a phone call away). But an early morning event about 4 years ago shattered that complacency: a 2am attempted break-in.

She was alone, locked in her bedroom, within a locked house, with the alarm activated (yet NOT functioning!). She was awakened by a sound which she thought could be glass breakage.

She was unsure, but she decided if it was glass, surely the alarm would sound. It did not, so she went back to sleep.

A few hours later she awakened, walked casually to the back porch and saw broken glass from the French door strewn on the floor. She called my sister ......and the Tallahassee Police.

The quick on-scene investigation revealed the burglar had broken out the back door glass panel so he could reach thru to the thumb screw which unlocked the dead bolt. After he got that far he realized the door was still held locked by another dead bolt requiring a key. In that discovery through the broken glass panel, he cut his wrist and started bleeding profusely. That stopped his further intrusion.

This episode convinced the family...and Mom,.....she needed full-time help at last.

Since then she has become increasingly dependent upon others. While she is beyond the point of hosting celebrations to honor her in her house, we have helped simplify her life, and her birthday day-before-yesterday was such an example.

Her 9/11 birthday this year involved an early simple lunch made and served by my wife and two sisters. She was seated at the head of the table in the family dining room, regal in simplicity, yet alert to everything said around the table.....as always.....on 9/11, her 97th birthday.

Governor Crist called his good wishes just before lunch, and Former Governor Reuben Askew called her shortly after that, as he has done for perhaps 30 years. He always remembers, because 9/11 is his birthday, as well.

Lots of reasons for me to remember 9/11.

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.


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