Monday, September 11, 2006

Do you remember where you were?

When you first heard the news of the tragedy? You know which tragedy, which horror I'm referring to. Where were you?

I was in the homeschool room at our house in Connecticut. Talking, writing, teaching, laughing. The phone rang. I don't usually answer the phone when "class is in session," but the caller ID identified a friend who never called for frivolous reasons. She said, "I hate to bother you, but I know you aren't watching television, so I'm calling you to tell you to turn on your TV." I did. I saw the second plane hit the second tower.

I fell to my knees.
Wailed. Out loud.

The kids came running to my side, asking, "What's wrong?" At seven and four years of age, they couldn't understand. So I turned off the television, wiped my eyes, and went back to homeschooling. Weeping inwardly. Praying without ceasing all that morning. Later that afternoon, we went for a walk in our sunny, beautiful Silvermine neighborhood. It was a gloriously bright day, blue skies, cloudless. The children marveled at the turning of the leaves, the heights from which the leaves fell to the ground, and the quietness of the streets. I figured everyone was either inside watching television or at the beach watching the smoke plumes billowing high above New York City.

At one point, we walked past a golf course clubhouse, and several of the wait staff were sitting outside smoking and talking quietly. After commenting on the beauty of the day, I said, "It seems almost impossible to imagine all that is going on in New York City right now." Silent, somber head nods were the only response they could muster.

As Americans,
as Europeans,
as Middle Easterners,
as Africans,
as Latinos,
as Asians,
as citizens of this planet,
we all knew that day
that our lives
our nations
our world
would never be the same.

Thanks in part to the wonderful insulation that homeschooling can provide, it was six months later when I finally told Kristiana that the events we'd watched that morning had taken place in New York City. As we drove into Brooklyn to visit my family, I pointed to the hole in the sky where the Twin Towers had once loomed so indomitably. They were no more. How the mighty had fallen. I, like my children, looked up to marvel at the heights from which the leaves of paper, the personal effects, the photographs, and the bodies of innocent people had fallen, and wondered at the eerie quietness resounding from Ground Zero.

Five years on.
Moments of silence.
Memories. Monuments.
Tears of fear, despair, sorrow.
Readings of victims' names.
Prayers offered up.
Soldiers and civilians struck down
as a result.

Some people refuse to fly on this date.
Some refuse to fly ever again.
Some vow vengeance.
Some vow increased understanding.
Some say that our presence in Afghanistan, Iraq,
and elsewhere are necessary and make us safe here at home.
Some say we need our soldiers, our beloved sons and daughters,
right here at home. Safe at our sides. In our arms.

Daniel and Steve returned from their weekend in Boston about an hour ago. Daniel told me that there weren't many people in the airports (they had a short layover in Baltimore), and asked if I knew why that was so. "No, Daniel. Why do you think so?" "Because it's September 11th." No more innocence, now he knows a little bit more of the evil that lurks in the hearts of some.

I thought to myself: I know what day it is, my dear boy.
And all morning, I prayed for your safe return.
For your father's safe return.
For protection, not only for you, but for all.
For everyone everywhere.

Today as I awaited the telephone call signaling their safe landing in Charlotte, I was reminded again of the countless mothers in countries, cities, and towns where bombs and rockets rain down over them every day who pray daily for the safe return of their children and other loved ones. I wonder how it is possible to awaken every morning to look down into new craters where buildings had stood the night before. To walk to shops and schools passing fresh corpses and newly bombed residences where life and living had existed only hours earlier? Are they safer and better off today than they were five years ago? Are we?

On this day of remembrance, my mind wanders.
Questions surge.

Do we mourn the dead and dying?
Or do we celebrate the life we have, births and marriages?
Is it morbid to mourn or selfish to celebrate?
Do I homeschool as usual or take the day off to remember?

War rages on around us.
Rage wears on all of us.

Kill or be killed.
Forgive and be forgiven.

Give war a chance.
Give peace a chance.

Lay low.
Live out loud.

Who are we as a nation on this fifth anniversary of horror?
Who am I?
Where are we as a nation on the road to peace and security?
Where am I?

May God have mercy on us all.

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