From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Beep if You Love America

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

Isaiah 11:6 NIV

We become a large town during the summers when our tourist population swells. But after Labor Day, we have a population of about five thousand in Bradley Beach, New Jersey. On this day, September 13, 2002, we stood in front of a World War I monument, in honor of those who perished and those who survived September 11, 2001. Members of the clergy spoke to the crowd and so did the mayor. We lit candles and cried together and shared stories about the day and how it affected us. Many had stories about friends, about family, who did not come home. Over and over, we heard the same refrain, “They just never came home that Tuesday.” There were children of all ages, holding candles and flags. They were listening.

Later, when the memorial service was over, the children left the park to stand on the corner, and we stood around aching to do something more. We hugged. We talked. We told each other it would get better. But there were no smiles and there was no laughter.

Suddenly, we noticed horns honking up and down Main Street, as if a parade was passing through town. As if there was a celebration.

We couldn’t imagine who would celebrate on a day like today.

And then we heard the children’s chants. “Beep if you love America!” they shouted. Again and again. “Beep if you love America.” They stood at a four-way intersection, on the curb, jumping up and down, waving their hands to get attention, holding the American flags in front of their chests, pleading, “Beep if you love America.” And everyone did. The night air was filled with horns honking and people waving as the children jumped in the air, holding flags in front of them and shouting, louder and louder, “Beep if you love America.”

Their energy galvanized the people standing there and those passing in the cars. Perhaps the drivers were coming from work or going shopping. Undoubtedly they had on their radios and were listening to the accounts coming in, lives saved, lives lost. And yet, there were youth on the corner and energy on the corner, shouting and waving over and over, “Beep if you love America.”

It went on for a long time. The town resonated with honking horns.

People smiled from their car windows. We heard ourselves laughing with the children. We began to wave also to the passing cars. We let the children lead us that evening. Even though they had read the papers, looked at the television, watched the adults around them cry and vent their anger, even though they knew something really terrible had happened to their country, a new feeling had taken hold of them—one they couldn’t even explain to themselves. It had something to do with the flags they were holding. It had something to do with their country, America. It had something to do with their love for freedom.

That night, for a while, we let the children lead us and heal us.

“Beep if you love America,” we roared.

And we knew America would hear us.

Harriet May Savitz

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