Friday, September 21, 2001

AN OPEN LETTER (c) Connie A. Anast, with permission to share with author's name

Dear Sir,

I don't know you and you don't know me. I saw you at the restaurant on September 14, 2001. I sat in a booth a couple rows behind you.

I can't say what drew me to you. I noticed you there, in your fatigues, watching the news on the overhead TV. You were sitting alone, sipping coffee. I glanced over while I ate my dinner, watching your furrowed brow, your proud yet concerned face as the days news unfolded to a shocked nation. I watched as you took your time reading the paper, slowly eating your simple dinner, sighing deeply as you read something that touched you.

Over the past few days, terror had blanketed this nation. New York. Washington. Fear. I watched as hundreds died needlessly and felt the swelling of patriotism that arose out of those ashes. I had grown up in a patriotic household, so I certianly wasn't a stranger to pride in my country. I watched my brother, neighbors and friends join the service, even fight in Desert Storm. I am as American as they come, I suppose.

But in those moments that I knew you were there, I felt safe. While I ate my meal, I was stirred by the certain knowledge that because you were wearing that uniform, no harm would come to me that night, in that place, at that time. Because of your service to this country, sir, I will remain free. While you enjoyed your dinner alone, let me say, you were not truly alone.

You were surprised when the waitress came by to freshen up your coffee and told you that your meal had been paid for. You insisted that you hadn't paid, yet smiled when you realized that someone else had picked up your tab. It was the least I could do. Because of you, and fellow soldiers, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and nurses, I can go about my daily life with confidence that while New York may be burning, there is someone there to help. I can sleep at night knowing that someone is watching over me and my family. No one could ever thank you enough for simply doing your job because your job is never simple. You protect Freedom.

I didn't get to see you leave, but I did read the note you wrote on your tab. "Thank You, God Bless. Tom." Even in the anonimity, I felt touched by you. Even in this small town, I may never see you again. But for me, that's okay. I know, in my back of my mind, you are there, ready to fly anywhere, do anything asked of you, lay down your life if necessary, for someone you have never met. Where else can someone see pure courage, than in your eyes, and the eyes of the other Angels of our country. That is the definition of American.

God Bless You, Tom. And Thank You.


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