A young man named Danny recently moved into an off campus dorm to begin his college career. His mother, who gave birth to him in 2002, helped get him set up and then said goodbye. He, along with thousands upon thousands of other college students, face a learning environment starkly different than anyone would have imagined just six short months ago.  

Going to college while a pandemic, racial strife and a sharply divided presidential contest rock the country will not be the first challenge Danny faces. He came into the world as part of a special but sad club — one of approximately 100 babies born in a post 9-11 world, to mothers who lost the fathers of their children during the terrorist attacks and carried their children through a time of unimaginable grief.

 “I love you, I love the children.” Tim Soulas, a Delaware County, Pennsylvania native and Cardinal O’Hara graduate, said those words to his wife and high school sweetheart, Katy, every night before he went to sleep. She heard her husband say that sweet phrase for the last time on September 10, 2001. The next day, Tim went to work in New York City, where terrorists killed him, leaving behind five children and Katy, eleven weeks pregnant with their sixth child, Danny, now beginning college in a world that his father would likely not recognize.

Then, seemingly suddenly, first responders fell from their place of honor with the resounding thud of knees hitting Astroturf during the National Anthem. Fast forward to 2020 and we watch cities set ablaze and rioters shouting unspeakable invectives about law enforcement of all types.

Danny came into this world on the heels of a national tragedy but also during a time when our country came together. While we as a nation slowly recovered from the horror of an invasion of evil on our own soil, we honored the heroes who ran into burning buildings, without a thought at all for their own safety. The 23 New York City police officers, 37 Port Authority officers, and 343 members of the New York City fire department who lost their lives that day did not know the people they rushed to save.  

Those brave souls certainly had no idea who they were trying to rescue: the color of their skin, their ethnicity, citizenship status or belief system. All they knew was that human beings needed their help.

As a nation, we honored those valiant men and women. Professional sporting events routinely featured first responders to throw out the first pitch or be introduced to a roaring crowd, grateful for their service. Communities all over the world erected tribute walls, statues and monuments. We set up funds to send their children to college. People wore NYPD T-shirts honoring police officers and FDNY baseball caps as a tribute to the firemen.  

Then, seemingly suddenly, first responders fell from their place of honor with the resounding thud of knees hitting Astroturf during the National Anthem. Fast forward to 2020 and we watch cities set ablaze and rioters shouting unspeakable invectives about law enforcement of all types.

How quickly we forgot – not only those who lost their lives in the line of duty – but also the weary men and women who showed up day after day post 9-11 to sort through the rubble to look for survivors and then the remains of the souls lost, all while anguished by their own personal situations and a nation gripped with sorrow. They endured life threatening working conditions and grueling long hours yet they kept at it, out of duty, and patriotism and the goodness of the human spirit. 

These young adults understand adversity. They never met one of their parents as a result of unspeakable evil. 

Young men and women like Danny Soulas, born in a time of incomprehensible turmoil, watched a nation fight back against terrorists and our nation’s enemies. Each year, they and their families remembered those lost on 9-11 and the noble people who worked so gallantly to save lives that day. 

These young adults understand adversity. They never met one of their parents as a result of unspeakable evil. They suffered through the economic crash of 2008. Yet they witnessed the triumph of the election of our nation’s first black president, and then his re-election. They saw our nation stand strong against terrorism.

The world changed dramatically in the last nineteen years. Most of these young adults owned and used smart phones before they left elementary school. Their social lives and important life events play out on social media. Born after a low point in our nation’s history, they watched as we built ourselves back up, and as we stumbled. On occasion, people sworn to protect citizens, sometimes instead hurt them, sparking unrest, protests and violence. Families and communities suffered. Danny and his peers grew up in a nation that is by no means perfect, but continually strives to better itself.

As we reflect on 9-11, the lives lost, our nation’s response and how far we have come as well as where we can improve, I hope we can take time to think about the fundamental underpinnings of our democracy that makes the United States so special. We enjoy liberty like no other nation on earth. We make choices about the kind of government we want. The greatest rulebook in the history of the world – the U.S. Constitution – guarantees our freedom.

My faith assures me that Tim Soulas continues to watch over Danny, his mother and his siblings. Katy raised her family without her husband and evil monsters denied her growing old with the love of her life. That should simply not have happened. However, she believes, as do I, that someday she and her children will meet up with Tim in heaven. I hope for her that does not happen for a long time, after God blesses her with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

When the Soulas family reunites in the afterlife, I also hope that Danny can report to his father that the unity and patriotism so evident in America following 9-11, returned to our nation and that he and his generation changed human history for the better. In the meantime, I wish Danny and the other children of 9-11 all the best as they enter adulthood. May God bless them and this great country into which they were born.

Linda A. Kerns is a member of the Cardinal O’Hara Class of ’85. She is an attorney and a co-founder of Broad + Liberty. Linda can be reached at lkerns@broadandliberty.com. .@lindakernslaw

One thought on “Linda A. Kerns: All of this kneeling before our flag suggests some of us have already forgotten”

  1. I was in New York during 9/11, so I’m empathetic to the writer’s cause. But people taking a knee during the National Anthem is not against or “forgetting” our first responders any more than it’s against any number of the people in my family who serve/served in the military or law enforcement. That’s an illogical argument that even some veterans don’t agree with: they’ll argue they fought for the liberal principle of free speech and the right to protest our government when it doesn’t serve us. I don’t agree with the rioting or with the anti-law enforcement sentiment popular amid many people right now, so peacefully taking a knee seems like a good alternative to burning things down.

    What we have forgotten in America is our “Never Forget” slogan after WWII. All of us care more about the latest gadget in our pockets tracking our likes on articles we publish than the million Muslim Uighers in concentration camps in China where our iPhones and clothing and all manner of daily items we don’t need but want are made. These people are being starved, raped, tortured, killed, and separated from their children and we Americans…. shrug. I can’t get ginned up about the flag when America isn’t living up to its ideals. When people are proud of our country, they’ll stand again. Until then, I’m glad that many are taking a knee to remind us that we have a long way to go. You can’t compel respect or loyalty, and you can’t coerce people into ideological conformity.

    When people, not corporations, control our government again, we’ll be in better shape as a nation.

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