Sept. 12 2019 09:20 AM

The terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001, united Americans across the countryside.

My daughter, Cassie, age 13, standing in front of one of the 9/11 memorial fountains during our trip to New York City in June.

Earlier this summer, my daughter, Cassie, and I were in New York for the National Jersey Cattle Association’s annual meetings. Since we were close, or as close as we would probably ever be, the two of us took a train ride to New York City. It was an amazing experience, and the most moving part was when we toured Ground Zero.

I stood there overlooking the Memorial Fountain and cried with my teenage daughter by my side. She asked, "Mom, where were you on 9/11?"

I didn't skip a beat answering the question. Like when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, my late mother remembered exactly where she was and how she felt decades later.

On 9/11, I was driving to work in Madison, Wis., listening to the radio and not understanding how a jet plane could crash into a building. I remember thinking, after my morning meeting, I'll pause and check the internet to see what happened.

Quickly after I arrived at the office, it was what everyone was talking about. Meetings were postponed. Looming deadlines didn’t matter. We were all in shock and scared about the uncertainty of what was unfolding.

I went home that night, glued to my television watching the horrific scene, and listening to the heroic actions. I never felt more alone and more certain of what mattered in life. I called my mother and cried. I drove down to see Scott. During such devastation, all that mattered became crystal clear.

I remember driving to a farm in Iowa to write a story a week after 9/11, and my heart smiled. Driving through the countryside, it screamed of patriotism, as Americans flew the flag with pride, yellow ribbons were tied to trees, and some barns were painted with patriotic messages. Signs were posted on towns’ gas stations. People were friendly, holding doors open for strangers and saying hello. It was a time that my generation had never experienced, and a time that through so much uncertainty and darkness, as Americans, we were coming together.

"If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate."

Do you remember how you felt on September 12, 2001? Do you recall how proud your heart was with the uncountable tales of heroism and how America came together showcasing its unity? We were not Democrats or Republicans; we were red, white, and blue!

I think even in our small farming communities, we can go back to that feeling that we had on 9/12. Let's use this Observance Day to promote what we love — all that is good in this country and all that is good in this dairy industry — instead of bashing what we hate.

The fabric of America is the dedication, hard work, and sacrifice that was exemplified on 9/11. Our American farm families illustrate the same ideals that were portrayed that September Day. Let’s stand united with those values in hand and go back to feeling the way we did on September 12, 2001.

Karen Bohnert

Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.