- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

Everyone who decided not to play games this weekend made the right call at least those who compete on a level where their games are considered events to celebrate, where people should know better.

Fans who wanted to see athletes play who considered it some kind of patriotic duty to go on you'll have to find some other way to get by this weekend without your diversions. You'll have to find another way to channel your outrage and grief other than cheering for your heroes.

We all like to pontificate sometimes that our priorities are misguided. We will say sometimes that our hero devotion to athletes is all out of whack, that the real heroes in this world are police officers and firefighters and others who put their lives on the line. They protect the way of life we have been afforded to be able to devote so much attention and energy to such important diversions as football and other games.

Well, now we have a chance to put our priorities in order. Our society got a collective whack on the side of the head Tuesday, in tragedies that we may never fully recover from and should not be so eager to put behind us.

Now the heroes are the police officers, firefighters and other volunteers who have given their lives and those who continue to work to try to save victims of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. I know you have already been cheering them while watching them on the news, in between sharing the grief of those who have lost loved ones.

You can take the time today and tomorrow that you would have spent away from the grim reality to continue to recognize our newfound heroes. There are police and firefighter memorials in many communities across the country. Take your family or friends and visit one of them. There are makeshift memorials being set up to honor those victims of this horror. Find one and let your feelings be known.

Go beyond your television screen and show your support for those who deserve our devotion by remembering others who have already given their lives for tragedies that happen every day, often barely noticed in short newspaper stories a house fire, a robbery attempt, where these men and women place themselves in harm's way to keep us safe.

Until Tuesday, I don't think most of us realized how valuable a commodity safety was.

Now we know.

So today and tomorrow let us celebrate those who preserve that safety, and, in the coming months and perhaps years, will be putting their lives on the line also to preserve our safety, our way of life our America.

Troops will likely be put into action soon to keep our America safe from further such attacks. Fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, could die so that we do not have to live in fear of our own lives back home, so we can go on with our daily lives, the raising of our families, the jobs that we perform, and the diversions we have placed too much value on if we think that just five days after thousands of people have lost their lives on American soil, it's OK to down a few beers in the parking lot or have a hot dog at the ballpark.

Those who wanted to play games this weekend talked about how sports connects us as a community. That is because so many of our old connections have disappeared as we hunker down in our homes with satellite or cable television, the Internet and other technology that is turning us into islands. One of the few remaining connections we have in our daily lives are sporting events.

I think we have something else to connect us now, something far more powerful than a football game.

This is not to say we should live like monks. But going to a ballgame less than a week after this disaster is not like going to a movie or some other recreational activity. Sitting in a stadium with thousands of people is such a visible public display of pleasure when pain is still very much in the air.

Instead, visit a memorial in your community that honors veterans who have died in Vietnam, Korea, the two World Wars and other conflicts. Bring your family and give them a perspective of what is at stake. Now is the time to let your children know that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are something more than simply a day for a cookout or sales at the mall.

It may not be easy. There may be some roadblocks, literally, as Washington is still in a siege mode and moving around may be difficult. Some places may be closed. And there may be mental roadblocks as well an understandable fear of being in public places in a city that we now know is a target of our America's enemies. Every person will have to deal with those fears in their own way.

But when we are talking about sending signals as if terrorists thousands of miles away could care if the Cardinals and Redskins played tomorrow the signal of people gathering at memorials that honor men and women who had the courage to meet the enemy in the past will show that this is not the America of the blue jeans, pop music and sports and celebrity worship that our enemies believe we are.

Our America is much, much more than that.


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