Friday, September 11, 2015

Since That September Morn

We were on vacation on what was to become “9/11,” in a little yellow house on a lake, near some woods. It had cable TV, and we turned on the news to find an unimaginable horror unfolding in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. 

Later, when we couldn’t watch anymore, we went for a walk in those woods. It was quiet there, and we talked about how life in America would never be the same. How could it?

I suppose it was on the one-year anniversary that I realized what I had been doing every morning since: getting out of bed, turning on the TV, and making sure it wasn't happening again.

And on some level, I’ve been checking every morning for fourteen years.

So far, it hasn’t happened again, at least not on the same scale. Terrorist attacks have, of course, occurred between our borders. At the Boston Marathon, for one. But no planes have slammed into towers, or into iconic federal buildings, or onto fields in Pennsylvania. No deaths in the thousands, though every life lost and every soul who now lives with injury—inside or out, or both—from any act of terror should not be forgotten.

And new horrors around the world—currently the heart-wrenching refugee crisis out of Syria and into Europe—abound. Yet this? It happened to us, and we had a hard time believing it.

Truthfully? I think we still do.

And because it happened "to us," we remember in detail what we might not when terror strikes "someone else," no matter our level of awareness and concern.

I asked a business colleague what it was like for her that day as she worked in her office building in Midtown Manhattan. "We knew how bad it was when we . . . when we heard the blare of so many sirens," she said. And that's all she said. She obviously could not bring herself to say more. Later, when she had found her way home to Long Island, she watched as we did on television.

The New York City skyline, empty of the soaring towers.

The medical personnel who waited at their hospitals for victims who never came.

Stunned people. Angry people. Grieving people. 

The desperate notes pinned in a central location: “Have you seen this woman? She’s my daughter.”

I don’t consciously think about it every morning now, fourteen years later. But I know I am, in fact, still checking. Because we changed that day. Because we joined the millions across the world who know what it feels like when evil on a wide scale overcomes a sense of safety and peace. 

I don't think those of us who remember that day will ever forget. Nor should we.

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