By Gene Pisasale
Two world-changing events occurred on the same date, separated by 224 years.
One was the Battle of the Brandywine, the largest military engagement in America up until the Civil War. The latter one was an act of lunacy by terrorists which shocked the world. Although nearly 12 years have passed since the brutal attack on Sept. 11, 2001, the scenes of destruction and mayhem remain embedded in the collective memory of our nation.
Sept. 11 was not an isolated event, but it was the most consequential. Our country has experienced many acts of terror over the years. From the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 to the devastating attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the assault on the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000, we'd been given many warnings -- signposts along a road now more treacherous, filled with both uncertainty and the possibility of future atrocities.
The Sept. 11th Remembrance has become a solemn fixture each year at Brandywine Battlefield Park. It honors the day Lafayette fought with General Washington to help us gain our independence, and the tragic day 12 years ago. This year, many special guests have been asked to be part of the ceremonies. Brother David Schlatter, a member of the Franciscans, will ring his "Bells of Remembrance" as he has done for several of these memorials. Schlatter's appearance will follow his performance ringing the bells at a similar event the same day in New York City. John Sagrati, a member of the Ceol Neomh Pipe Band in Lancaster, Pa., will play the bagpipes in solemn recognition of all who died, and those who served valiantly trying to save them. The Brandywine Baptist Church will sing hymns honoring all these heroes. There will even be an appearance by Gen. George Washington in full military uniform, as portrayed by "living biographer" Carl Closs. Closs has been at the park for this occasion many times. He's appeared as Washington at numerous venues around the country, including Mount Rushmore and Valley Forge.
Today, many children wonder what it would be like to talk to their father, who never came home that day from work. Hundreds of men still grieve, seeing the empty chair at the dinner table where their wife once sat. Most peace-loving people have trouble understanding the mindset which produced these tragic events. We all likely sense that our country has changed forever.
Yet, this new world need not be one of fear. It is one in which we must alter the way we detect threats to our national security before they become disasters. Amidst this heightened level of danger, we cannot lose sight of two things: Those who perished that day in 1777 and 2001 will always be heroes.
The other is more fundamental. We must not grant terrorists the option to dictate the way we live our lives. To allow that would deliver the victory they'll so gladly die for. Prevailing through our struggle for independence, and more recently those horrific attacks, we as a nation are stronger, more resilient and wiser than we were before being tested in the forge of calamity. We should use that wisdom to build a better, safer world for all mankind.
The commemoration this year will be on Wednesday Sept. 11 from 6 to 6:30 p.m. at Brandywine Battlefield Park. For more information, call 610- 459- 3342 or visit http://brandywinebattlefield.org/.
Gene Pisasale is an author and lecturer based in Kennett Square. He has written six books and conducts an ongoing lecture series on topics of historical interest. His latest book is "The Forgotten Star," which delves into the War of 1812 and true-life mysteries surrounding the Star-Spangled Banner. His website is www.GenePisasale.com; he can be reached at Gene@GenePisasale.com.