Emotions, History, Perspective

This is just a small post about 9-11. It’s brief because the longer I spend thinking and talking about it, writing about it, the more I feel. Sadness. Anger. Fear. Hope. Loss. Bravery. I’m overwhelmed by the emotion I feel. Besides, I could also write a book about my feelings on 9-11, so brief is my statement.

The Dalai Lama said:

“Since we have a natural compassion in us, and that compassion has to manifest itself, it might be good to awaken it. Violence done to an innocent person, for example, can make us indignant, scandalize us, and in doing so help us to discover our compassion. By its very violence, television might keep us in a state of alert. However, it is very dangerous if violence leads to indifference.”

I watched the Dateline special for 9-11 and I cannot compare this Dalai Lama quote to a better set of circumstances. When the planes went into the towers, that was violence, not only against our country, but against our compassion. Against humanity. Not in a time of war, which can be expected—just remember Pearl Harbor. But out of that violence came even more compassion and a gathering of community.

We became stronger than we were before. Everyone can remember where they were the day the towers were struck. If you can’t you were either in a coma or not born yet. I was in a reading class required for a college course (it was a piece of cake, by the way). We were ten minutes into the test when the professor came in and told us. She urged us to finish our tests in a timely manner and then we could be dismissed. I remember my parents picking me up (it was my first year of college and I didn’t have a car at that time) and lying down on the back seat. We drove to Delaware Electric Co-Op. I remained in the car with my mother listening to the radio. Listening to the attack on our country and I cried. I felt numb inside but burned up and hot, as if my blood was boiling, not with anger but with confusion. Why? Why this? Why this many people?

The answer to those questions is a book in itself and a can of worms I don’t even want to open yet.

The television was my friend the rest of the day once we got back “home.” Our home that year, as we were in the process of moving and a hurricane pushed back our move-in date, was a 36 foot camper. I curled up on the tiny, firm couch with a boring blue-green pattern and watched the screen until my eyes burned with tears. I don’t remember much of the rest of the day.

In the days it took to get the bodies out of the rubble, I remember the news reporters saying that the bodies and body parts would be sent to Dover Air Force base because Dover had room enough to sort the parts and identify people.

They sent parts of people.

Delaware would be housing parts of people.

People who were at one time vibrant and laughing and hugging. Kissing their spouses goodbye in the morning or leaving a Starbucks and giving them a peck on the cheek then going their separate ways. Teaching their sons how to throw a right hook or swing a bat or golf club. Playing dress-up with their daughters or teaching them to apply make-up. People who had struggled to understand taxes and calculate how much to leave as a tip. Who sat at red lights, ran red lights, drank coffee, ate donuts, counted calories, cooked spaghetti, vacuumed, dusted, drank beer or wine or cocktails. Those people who were just like us were now parts, lying in Dover Air Force Base while family members waited to be notified.

My mind still can’t wrap around that idea. I’m constantly in a state of shock and wonder and sadness when I think of those victims and heroes of 9-11 and when I hear of deaths of our service men and women overseas.

I am grateful and proud of them for doing everything they do.

I’m proud of the women and men who wrote about their loved ones dying in the 9-11 attacks. I’m proud—no, honored—to hear their stories. I’m hopeful when I hear about their children who didn’t know their fathers or mothers or grandparents. And I’m damned proud to be American.

Please remember to never ever forget.

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