9/11 IN MEMORIUM: A LETTER HOME (after Sullivan Ballou 1861)

There was found among the ashes a letter written when that time stood still.  It is a letter home – to America – from an unknown American to us all, the American Family.

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 MY LETTER HOME   —   had there been time ….

NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
MY OWN VERY DEAR SARAH:

WE ONCE SHARED A LETTER WRITTEN TO ANOTHER SARAH.  WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT. …

THE INDICATIONS ARE PRETTY STRONG THAT I’LL PASS – WITHIN THE HOUR. SHOULD I STILL NOT BE ABLE TO REACH YOU, I FEEL COMPELLED TO WRITE SOMETHING THAT MIGHT GET THROUGH WHEN I’LL BE NO MORE.

MY MOVEMENTS FROM HERE MAY BE STAIRWELL DOWN AND OUT – OR IT MAY BE ONE OF PAIN AND DEATH TO ME. NOT MY WILL,  BUT YOURS, O GOD, BE DONE.

IF IT’S NECESSARY THAT I SHOULD DIE – JUST FOR LIVING IN MY OWN COUNTRY, WELL, NOW, I THINK I’M READY. I HAVE NO MISGIVINGS AND NO LACK OF CONFIDENCE – NOW, IN THIS AMERICAN EXPERIMENT WHICH WE’VE BEEN LIVING IN. AND MY COURAGE DOESN’T FALTER. I SEE NOW HOW STRONGLY AMERICAN CIVILIZATION NOW LEANS UPON THE STRENGTH OF ORDINARY PEOPLE,

AND NOW – ONLY NOW – HOW GREAT A DEBT WE OWE TO THOSE WHO WENT BEFORE US THROUGH THE BLOOD AND SUFFERING OF EVERY CONFLICT, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.

AND I NEVER REALLY THOUGHT IT WOULD PASS TO ME… O GOD … BUT I’M WILLlNG – PERFECTLY WILLING – TO LAY DOWN ALL MY JOYS IN THIS LIFE, TO HELP MAINTAIN THIS LAND, AND TO PAY THAT DEBT.

BUT YOU, DEAR SARAH, HAVE TO HELP ME NOW, WHEN I COME TO IT SO LATE. WHEN I KNOW THAT WITH MY OWN FATE I LAY DOWN NEARLY ALL OF YOUR JOYS, AND REPLACE THEM IN THIS LIFE WITH CARES AND SORROWS — WHEN, FROM FAMILY GONE FROM IMMIGRANT TO AMERICAN, I HAVE THAT DEBT TO OFFER AS THE ONLY SUSTENANCE TO OUR DEAR CHILDREN.

IS IT WEAK AND DISHONORABLE TO WRITE, NOT RUN, WHEN THE BANNER OF MY NEWFOUND PURPOSE FLOATS UNKNOWN (BUT PROUDLY, IN THIS SPACE LOST TO MAN) — THAT MY UNBOUNDED LOVE FOR YOU, MY DARLING WIFE AND CHILDREN, SHOULD STRUGGLE IN FIERCE, THOUGH USELESS, CONTEST WITH MY NEWFOUND LOVE OF THIS COUNTRY?

I CAN’T DESCRIBE TO YOU MY FEELINGS THIS DAY OF DAYS,  THIS NEW AMERICAN SABBATH — WITH ,THOUSANDS STUCK AROUND ME, MANY OF THEM MEETING THAT LAST CALL, PERHAPS, OF DEATH.   BUT I AM CERTAIN THAT DEATH IS TAUNTING ME –  SO HERE I AM COMMUNING WITH – GOD, MY COUNTRY, AND YOU

BUT, I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT, EVEN CASUALLY, AND NEVER IN MY HEART, THAT THERE WAS A WRONG MOTIVE IN JUST LIVING OUR LIVES AND ENJOYING THE HAPPINESS OF THOSE I LOVED.

AND NOW I KNOW. TOO LATE.  BUT NOW I NEED OTHERS TO BEAR MY WITNESS.(I REMEMBER) ‘SARAH, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS DEATHLESS,   IT SEEMS TO BIND ME TO YOU WITH MIGHTY CABLES THAT NOTHING BUT OMNIPOTENCE COULD BREAK. ‘

YET, I KNOW NOW, ‘MY LOVE OF COUNTRY COMES OVER ME LIKE A STRONG WIND’, BUT TOO LATE TO BEAR ME TO THE BATTLEFIELD.

AND SO I PLEAD: CALL UPON OTHERS TO BREAK THE CHAINS OF THEIR OWN LOVE AND BEAR ME – NO – BEAR ALL OF US – IRRESISTIBLY TO THE FIELD OF BATTLE.

PLEAD:  A PURE LOVE OF OUR COUNTRY.

CALL: ‘OUR TIRED, OUR POOR, OUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE, THE WRETCHED REFUSE OF THEIR TEEMING SHORE; CALL UPON THESE THE HOMELESS, TEMPEST-TOSSED’ – NOW BECOME AGAIN ONE NATION.

CALL AND THEY WILL OBEY: FOR OUR SACRED PRINCIPLES THAT WE, ONE NATION INDIVISIBLE, HOLD IN THE NAME OF HONOR THAT WE LOVE MORE THAN WE FEAR DEATH.

I HAVE, I KNOW, BUT FEW AND SMALL CLAIMS UPON MY FELLOW AMERICANS, BUT SOMETHING WHISPERS TO ME – PERHAPS IT’S THE GAPING HOLE TO COME IN ALL OUR KIDS’ LIVES – THAT THEY WILL DO THIS DUTY WHICH I HAVE FAILED.

I PRAY TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE THAT THEY WILL RETURN TO THEIR LOVED ONES UNHARMED. IF THEY DON’T, MY DEAR SARAH, NEVER LET THEM FORGET HOW MUCH I LOVE THEM NOW, AND WHEN MY LAST BREATH ESCAPES ME IN THIS LITTLE CORNER OF HELL, IT WILL WHISPER ‘MY BROTHER, MY FRIEND, MY AMERICA.’

O, AMERICA, THE MEMORIES OF THE BLISSFUL MOMENTS I HAVE LIVED AMONG YOU COME CREEPING OVER ME, AND I FEEL MOST GRATIFIED TO GOD AND TO YOU ALL THAT I HAVE ENJOYED THEM SO LONG. AND IT’S HARD FOR ME TO GIVE THEM UP AND BURN TO ASHES MY NEWFOUND HOPES OF FUTURE YEARS, WHEN IF ONLY GOD HAD BEEN WILLING, I MIGHT HAVE COME TO LEARN WE CAN’T LIVE IN PRIVATE JOYS, UNLESS WE ALSO LIVE TO DO PUBLIC GOOD AND COME TO SEE OUR LAND ENJOY OUR GOOD WORKS.

NEIGHBORS, FORGIVE ME MY MANY FAULTS, AND THE MANY PAINS I HAVE CAUSED YOU. HOW THOUGHTLESS AND FOOLISH I’VE OFTEN BEEN! HOW GLADLY I WOULD WASH OUT WITH MY TEARS EVERY LITTLE SPOT OF MY UNCARING ABOUT YOUR HAPPINESS; AND STRUGGLE WITH ALL THE MISFORTUNE OF THIS WORLD, TO SHIELD YOU AND YOURS FROM HARM.

BUT WE TRAPPED HER CANNOT. WE MUST WATCH OUR COUNTRY FROM ‘THE SPIRIT LAND’ AND HOVER NEAR YOU, WHILE YOU BUFFET THE STORMS WITH YOUR PRECIOUS FREIGHT OF FREEDOM, AND WAIT WITH SAD PATIENCE TILL PEACE COMES AND WE MEET TO PART NO MORE.  (REMEMBER, WE MEMORIZED) –

BUT, AMERICA! IF THE DEAD CAN COME BACK TO THIS EARTH AND FLIT UNSEEN AROUND THOSE THEY LOVED, WE, HERE, WILL ALWAYS BE NEAR YOU; IN THE SUNNIEST SUBURB AND IN THE DARKEST SLUM – AMIDST YOUR HAPPIEST SCENES AND GLOOMIEST  HOURS – ALWAYS,ALWAYS. AND IF YOU BE SAD, OR SICK, OR HURT AND THERE COMES A SOFT BREEZE UPON YOUR CHEEK, IT SHALL BE OUR BREATH; OR AS THE COOL AIR FANS YOUR THROBBING TEMPLE, IT SHALL BE OUR SPIRITS STANDING BY YOU.

AMERICA, DO NOT MOURN US DEAD; THINK WE ARE GONE TO LIGHT THE WAY TO VICTORY, FOR THEN WE SHALL MEET AGAIN,BUT ONLY THEN.

AMERICA, WE WAIT FOR YOU THERE ! FIGHT TO – LIVE FREE, OR DIE. COME TO US WITH VICTORY. COME TO US IN PEACE AND FREEDOM.

AS FOR OUR CHILDREN, PLEASE DON’T LET THEM GROW UP AS I DID, NEVER TO HAVE KNOWN YOU HAVE TO WORK HARD  AT FREEDOM.  AMERICA, I HAVE UNLIMITED CONFIDENCE IN YOUR CARE AND YOUR DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR CHARACTER. AMERICA, TEACH THEM TO LOVE AND CARE FOR ALL MEN OF GOOD WILL. TEACH THEM TO RESIST ALL MEN OF ILL WILL. BRING THEM TO DO GOOD DEEDS; AND MAY THEY LEARN THERE IS NO FREEDOM WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY AND NO PEACE WITHOUT FREEDOM. I CALL GOD’S BLESSING UPON THEM. I REMEMBER – MAY THE LORD BLESS THEM AND KEEP THEM AND CAUSE HIS COUNTENANCE TO SHINE UPON THEM.

PARDON, THIS SO DISHONORS SULLIVAN BALLOU’S WORDS. BUT O SARAH, O SARAH….  TEARS LEAVE NO ELECTRONIC STAINS ; FEEL MY WORDS. LIVE MY WORDS. AND PRAY AMERICA, LIVE MY UNDONE GOOD DEEDS.  I WAIT FOR YOU THERE ! COME TO ME, AND LEAD OUR CHILDREN THERE.

 

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This entry was posted in 2016 Presidential Elections, 9/11, 9/11 memorial, Letter Home, Sullivan Ballou, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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