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The Slowdown

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I've always lived in Clarksville. Like anyone else, I've moved around a few times. Still, I decided long ago that this city will always be my home, whether I reside on Memorial Drive, Bentree Court, or several other locations. It's a good town to grow up in, and I'm happy my kids made the same choice. During my walk at Liberty Park, I could not help but reflect on something that happened long ago; it sometimes feels like a bad dream when I think about it.

In 2001 I was a young parent, married with two young children. We were always on the move. If you have kids, you know what I'm referring to on any day of the week. Children grow up quickly, so we desperately try to squeeze everything in that we can. Slowing down never seems like an option, but it's what we all secretly want to do. Just one afternoon with the family and no plans would be sublime. Instead, we were off to the fairgrounds for another soccer practice.

I parked and watched as the kids finished their juice boxes and string cheese. Christian, my son, had to tie his shoes, and Ashlee, my daughter, looked like she had brushed her hair with a ceiling fan. It's the sort of stuff that happens when the dad is off and Moms caught up at work. My kids unbuckled in a flash and headed toward the coach, leaving two empty drink boxes behind in the back seat. I remember staring at the containers thinking how those juices meant everything to my kids, but once they finished them, they moved on, and the treats were forgotten.

The young athletes ran around and kicked the ball while all parents watched silently. We were chatterboxes most of the time, but something was different about this day. Not a single grown-up was on that field in spirit. All of our minds were in another place. Flashes of the world and how our babies would one day grow up to take on the leftover madness crept around our brains. Clarksville felt safe not long ago, but today there isn't a city in the entire country unaffected by despair. The goal is to leave a better community behind, a better world. We've failed.

Above was a spectacular cobalt Tennessee sky showing off its magnificence above Montgomery County. A few splashes of white reflected the warm glow of the setting sun. Then we saw it—something we hadn't seen in days since the tragedy. An airplane made its way overhead. Everyone stopped as if time had taken a break except for the object floating through the atmosphere.

We watched until it was nothing more than a tiny speck evaporating in space. The slowdown was all we needed, and smiles emerged for the first time since practice began. It was a sense of relief seeing that captivating airplane gliding across the sky and leaving behind some hope; hope that things would be okay, hope that our children may have a chance in the world even after September 11th.

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