Yes, it’s a race car. It’s the tail end of a race car. It’s the last thing you see as he flies past at high speeds.

Here’s the front…

This is what you see coming at you. Red, white, and blue. Stars and stripes.

I remember where I was, what I was doing that day. I was writing on my first novel. I was chatting with a friend in Australia online. I saw a headline. I got a call from my mom telling me to turn on the television. And I watched, in surprised horror the events of the day unfold.

My heart raced. I didn’t know anyone in New York. I didn’t know anyone who worked in the towers or in the surrounding buildings. I didn’t know anyone at all who lived in New York. I didn’t know anyone who lived in Pennsylvania. I didn’t know anyone in the Pentagon. My father-in-law sometimes traveled to Washington on business for the Army, but he wasn’t there at the time. I had a friend in the Air Force who used to be posted at the tomb of the unknown soldier, but he was long removed to Las Vegas by then.

I didn’t know anyone personally. But I knew me as an American and it broke my heart.

Life seemed to come to a standstill for days. Events were cancelled. People were afraid to go anywhere or do anything. We didn’t want to leave the television set. We didn’t want to go to work, kids didn’t want to go to school. We wanted to go back but we couldn’t. We never will.

I read an article earlier this week and it remarked on how New Yorkers took the attack personally because it happened in their city. They saw things, lost people that the rest of us will never understand on that fundamental level. And my broken heart, it was for those citizens, too.

I believe myself to be patriotic. I am all over the idea that if you come here and do this, we will come find every last one of you. I have no problem with that. We aren’t the world’s policeman. If we don’t step in, the world wonders where America is and why we aren’t doing anything. If we do step in, the world tears us apart for sticking our nose where it doesn’t belong. We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. And in some situations, I agree we should step aside and let other nations resolve their issues. But to bring it to American soil, to bring it here, no, we can’t sit by and do nothing. We can’t be politically correct and give someone a time out. We can’t talk about it because no one listens. We can’t let it slide, not when we’ve got the manpower to do something about it.

“We’ll put a boot in your ass…” I love that line. Gives me goosebumps every time. I know soldiers who have gone to fight. I know some that have never come home. I tried to enlist out of high school but because of a medical condition, they wouldn’t take me, but long before Toby Keith put those words down, I had wanted to serve my country.

Our nation is a lot of things, bad and good. We had to have something to cling to, some way to get back to living, some way to move forward, however small the steps were we had to take. There are things we do that unite us as a country, even in small pockets at a time. There are things that divide us as a country, too. One of the things in the days following September 11, 2001, that seemed trivial to some, to a lot, was the resumption of sporting events. Football, baseball… These are events that bring tens of thousands together at one time. These events are things that while the teams may divide our loyalties, the games themselves unite them.

It was no small matter, those first games. People grieve and heal in different ways. People remember and honor in different ways. One man I saw on television the other night said he doesn’t dwell on what happened on 9/11. He has moved on with his life. He looks at what he’s been given as a second chance since the moment he escaped from the World Trade Center towers. The man he helped get out of the rubble and wreckage, not so much. That man has been haunted every day, so much so that he had to move away from New York.

If I don’t cry, it’s not because I don’t feel it. If I do cry, it doesn’t mean I am dwelling. I feel many things very deeply. Children who’ve grown up without a father, or a mother, or a sibling, or a grandparent. Families who’ve continued on those they’ve lost one or more. I think one of the things I felt then and now is helpless. Helplessness. I give to the causes, to the charities, to the soldiers. But it’s still with a feeling of helplessness that I go on.

I attend NASCAR races on a regular basis. I stand. I put my hand over my heart. I cry during the flyovers. I sometimes cry when some singer massacres the Star Spangled Banner for their 15 minutes of fame. Sports is what helped my family heal, my family cope with the loss this country sustained. It broke my heart that I couldn’t enlist when others were. I wanted to go. I wanted to take my boot to someone’s ass…

In the NASCAR race last night in Richmond, they observed a moment of silence between laps 9-11.

I live in America and I love this country. It’s no secret to the world that we’ve got our issues and in some cases, they are really big issues. There are those that take it to the extreme and some that aren’t extreme enough. Patriotism runs deep.

I went to Philadelphia for an romance writer’s conference. But I was more interested and fascinated by the city itself, it’s present day feel, it’s hundreds of years old history. I stood in Washington Square and had tears in my eyes. I stood in Christ Church Cemetery walking among the graves of war heros, of Benjamin Franklin, of ordinary families. This nation has a long way to go. We are tweens and teenagers compared to other countries. We fight. We argue. We have our mood swings. For the most part though we will rally together as a family when one of our own is down…

Many things helped us start to heal after September 11, 2001. Television shows were dedicated to memories of those lost. Songs by the dozens were written. Moments of silence everywhere. Pain was written on everyone’s face. And football, baseball, races were played and run. Thousands gathered in one place at a time to share, to cry, to cheer.

Today is the first Sunday of the 2011 NFL season. There will be tributes on and off the fields. Players, coaches, team members, fans who all lost someone will be gathering to remember and to celebrate. We all heal in different ways. We all need a way to unite. And while sports and music may seem trivial to some, to others, it’s the only way they know to cope and to move forward, one down at a time.

Be safe today. Remember those firemen, those police officers, those men and women on the planes, in the towers, in the Pentagon, those soldiers overseas. Never forget. Hug those you love. As for my Australian friend, we’re still close friends. He stayed online with me for hours that day, well into the wee hours of the morning for him. I can’t thank him enough for helping me through…

~lissa