Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Choose Love (9/11 tribute)

Had a bit of a rough morning.  My back was bad from the night before, but got the girls to school on time. Even rode bikes, which seems to be helping to loosen up my hip/back, so I'm actually kind of proud of myself on that one.  A year ago, I would've called a neighbor to have the girls tag along and walk with them to school. My right leg & foot were falling asleep on the bike ride home.  This is my body's way of reminding me I'd already pushed it too far.  Knowing that, I came home, popped some ibuprofen & sat on the couch to take it easy.  Checked/cleaned out my email inbox & then popped over to FaceBook, (FB,) to see what my friends were up to today. 

Oh yeah, today is 9/11.  

For a few minutes this morning I had forgotten.  (Or, not realized yet.)  Reading all the 9/11 posts on FB brings back that horrible knot in my stomach. That sense of loss & helplessness so many of us felt on that day.  My Mother-In-Law woke us with a phone call that morning.  Told us we needed to get up and turn on the TV.  We became aware of what was happening about 5 minutes before the second plane hit.  I remember watching in disbelief as that plane flew into the building.  It was surreal.  The speed at which it was going and the directness of it's path, (into the building,) left no room for question.  This was not an accident, this was deliberate.  It's interesting, most of us find it necessary to relate what we were doing at that time.  How we found out.  Almost as if, to prove to everyone we really were part of what happened.  We may not have been in those buildings, or even known anyone who was, but we were part of it.  See, we didn't forget, is the implication of those stories.   I remember my first coherent thought, (as opposed to the raw emotion that was taking center stage in the middle of this,)  was "this is what 2001 will be remembered for, this will be remembered as the awful year, people flew planes into the World Trade Center, (WTC,).  I admit, it was a selfish thought.  We had been married in May, and for us, 2001 was our wedding year.  It was supposed to be the happiest year of my life.  Up until 9/11, it was.  I remember thinking, years from now, when we tell people we were married in 2001, they will say, "Oh the year of the WTC attacks."  Yes, it was a very selfish thought.  People had lost or were losing their lives in there, and I was worried about how people were going to look at it in a historical reference and as it related to me.  I know I wasn't alone in this.  I may be alone in admitting it, but I know most of us had initial thoughts like those.  Up until 9/11, we, (Americans,) were much like kids, who relate everything to 'how this affects me.'  We had this sense, that comes w/innocence, (or perhaps immaturity,) that viewed the world in that way.  'How does this affect my life.'  If the answer was, it really doesn't, then we would move on to the next thing.  This innocence, (which sounds way nicer than immaturity,) was really a good example of why those terrorists hated us so much.  We were so self-centered.  To a large degree, we were spoiled children who had been told the universe revolved around us and we believed it.  Our bigest worries were what I call, 'First World Problems.' We weren't worried about things like having enough to eat or a safe, comfortable place for our kids to sleep at night. We worried about things like how to get our kids to eat more vegetables, and if the DVR was going to have enough room to tape both of our TV shows tonight.  The kind of thing those terrorists might have wanted to be able to worry about.  I'm not defending them.  You have to be a special kind of crazy to do what they did. No one deserves what was done.  I'm just pointing out that, as a nation, we were spoiled brats who needed a good smack upside the head.  Instead of  a smack, they figuratively cut off an arm.  And we were innocent no more.

The second tangible thought I had that morning happened when the first building fell.  I immediately thought, "There are people running IN! What about them?!" I knew 'what about them,'  or I wouldn't have had that thought.  My heart just couldn't let my brain go there. From an analytical perspective, I wonder why I knew to think of them.  We have a lot of close friends who are police or fire department, and my brother is a cop now.  If this had happened in this day and age, I would know exactly why that thought occurred to me. People I'm close to, would've been part of that first wave of people in to help. In 2001, I was naive to that fact.  Maybe the news had covered the fact that as scary as it all was, the 'first responders' were bravely showing up to help.  I don't remember that though.  So much of that morning was just raw emotion.  I think that's why I remember what I thought & when I thought it. The rest of it is a big blur of disbelief, confusion, fear and helplessness.  Those feelings took root, and wouldn't go away, at all, for a LONG time.

 Like many people, I went into a very deep depression after 9/11/01.  No, I didn't know anyone personally who died.  I have family in NYC, some of whom were very close to it, but everyone was OK.  And we knew they were all OK pretty quickly.  We didn't have to go through the agonizing wait that so many did. We were spared the worry that not knowing would have added to the day.  I've commemorated this day on my blog in many ways.  I've written about individuals who lost their lives.  I've chronicled my depression, which took a few years and medications to get under control.  I've promised, like so many others, that I will "NEVER FORGET!"  We won't forget.  We can't.  But I'd be lying if I didn't admit I want to.  I don't want to forget how nice everyone got for a while there.  It seemed everyone, (in America,) posted an American flag in their car windows.  People let each other in, in traffic.  People smiled at each other & introduced themselves in random places.  It's hard to hate people you know.  If those terrorists had known us, known the names of the people on those planes, would that have made a difference?  Would it have mattered to them, the lady in row 10 was 3 month pregnant and they were going to share this joyous news with their parents this weekend?  Would it have mattered to them, that the 10yo girl visiting her mom's office in the WTC,  had raised money via a lemonade stand that summer.  That she had sent that money to charities helping children in their home countries? (I just made up those people, for perspective.)  My point is, I think  it might have made a difference.  It should have made a difference.  The reason we will never forget is because we can't.  Because, it could have easily been one of us on one of those planes or in those buildings.

Here's the big secret we all harbor.  We want to forget. Yup, I said it and it's true.  We say we'll, "Never Forget" as if it's something we have to work at, when really it's the opposite.  We want to forget.  We want to forget the pain, the confusion, the fear and the overwhelming sadness we feel about this day.  As time marches on, we do forget a little.  After it happened, there was not a moment that went by that we weren't thinking about it.  Those first couple years, everything anyone took part in,  was peppered with this tragedy.   Was it a large group gathering?  How were we making sure only people who belonged there were part of it?  We  suddenly realized how vulnerable we were, if someone wanted to hurt us.  All they had to do was show up at a mall near Christmas.  Or attend a NFL game.  The mayhem & publicity that would result from such an incident would severe their purposes well.  It's hard to maintain that type of vigilance though.  And now, 11 years later, I find that I didn't remember it was 9/11, till you all reminded me.  I'm lucky, I have that luxury.  If I had directly lost someone, I suspect, it would still be at the forefront of my mind most days.  I'm sure it is for those who are in that position.

While taking a moment of silence or prayer to commemorate this day is nice.  I think the memories of those lost would be best served, if we could try to remember our response to this tragedy.  If we see something out of place, point it out.  When you get on a plane, or bus, or train, introduce yourself to the people around you.  Let the guy merge into your lane in traffic. Smile at people you don't know.  We won't forget the awful thing that those people, who only had room for hate in their hearts, did.  We might want to forget, but we can't.  The real victory is when we work together to show, we are better than that. In the time everyone would expect us to choose to hate, we choose to love.  Allow your actions to show that's how we feel.  The terrorists don't win because we cancel a public event over safety concerns.  The terrorists win, if they get us to hate like that did.

I choose LOVE.