11 September 2006

Amazing Grace

I was to have flown across country on September 12, 2001, to the funeral of my recently deceased step-grandmother. And while watching the horror unfold on the television on the morning of September 11, this thought hung in the back of my mind. Will I be able to fly? Would I even want to fly? And as the hours ticked slowly by, it became more and more evident that no flights were going anywhere for quite some time and I was not going to be at the funeral with the rest of my family.

The impact of the Twin Towers was surreal. I have never been to New York. It was horrifying but with a slight remove. The strike at the Pentagon, on the other hand, hit quite at home, having grown up in Arlington and been in the halls of the Pentagon numerous times as a child when my mother worked there as a secretary. That was the mortal blow. And the reality sunk in deep.

I, like so many others, will forever measure my life by before and after 9/11. So many changes since then seem to have been linked to that fateful day. My daughter’s boyfriend had recently signed up for a stint in the Marine Corps. His plane to Camp Pendalton for boot camp was to have left on September 11, 2001. My daughter was the first one to utter the prophetic words “We are going to war.” Her words hung in the air sounding both matter-of-fact and despondent. A part of her precious young heart closed that day and has yet to be moved to open since then.

I found it hard to sleep for many months after, the horrific images replayed over in my dreams. The knell of solemn warning proclaiming that life is too short, and that contentment and inner peace must be sought after, fought for and won at all costs. That anything less was implying a quiet suicide of soul and I was no longer willing to settle for such loss of self.

A few days after I tried to write a few words of the impact that had left it’s imprint on my psyche. The following is what I wrote:

These are things that amaze me:
In a magazine that I bought tonight, there was, unknown to me, an article about the Solicitor General’s wife, Barbara Olson, she was in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. She was a beautiful, vibrant woman obviously adored by her relatively new husband. Now gone. The article said she regularly received death threats because of their position in the government, she called him from the hijacked plane to ask him what she should do. He worked at the Justice Dept. He immediately notified the Dept of Defense. These are variables that the hijackers could never have known. The magazine was published before September 11 and dated October 2001.

That the plane carrying the sister hit the building where the brother was helping someone else get out. What kind of farcical coincidence is that?

The man and woman holding hands as they jumped from the building, who were they? Were they strangers in a doomsday suicide pact or were they friends, co-workers, office lovers? Did they have kids, family?

The husbands that called their wives from the planes, to say good bye, to say they weren’t going down without a fight. The hijackers could not have known what their captives were capable of.

That the buildings fell down. That the buildings stood as long as they did. That the planes could make such a devastatingly accurate blow. That people could be so heartless. That people could be so good.

That two friends could be flying to the same destination for a vacation together but on two different flights (mileage plus) only to both go down in the separate planes.

The people in the second plane who saw the first crash before they hit too. The people in the buildings who saw the planes coming directly at them. The people who never saw what hit them. It all amazes me.

The man who ran back into the building before the second plane hit it to phone his wife and tell her he was ok. He never made out.

That the death toll at the Pentagon was reduced by one because one man had been counted twice, once at his job at the Pentagon and once again as one on the plane. He was on the plane.

Cruel, cruel desperate fates, and miraculous survival stories, but too much, way too much death.

That a firm could lose 700 of 1000 employees in one fell swoop leaving behind 1300 children orphaned of a father or mother, and the CFO of that company who was late to work so that he could attend his own son’s first day of kindergarten, who lost a brother as well as a best friend, and who must console the 700 grieving families.

That a woman had a baby but the father was a missing police officer, that the doctors named his baby Hope.

That the madness has already begun: Yesterday on the news some guy was talking about baseball resuming and the changes that fans would experience at the ballparks, such as closer inspection of bags etc, and even said “you might want to look twice at who’s sitting next to you.”...

That a turban wearing Indian Sikh was shot and killed in an incident of revenge, having been mistaken for a Muslim. And that rather childish "dead or alive" thing, I wish we had a leader who better understood the intricacies of the problems, rather than talking like a B-grade cowboy. The "nuke all the goddamn Arabs" sentiment raging in the dark corners of chat rooms and across the country. Theses so-called Americans aren't even hawks. They're hawk droppings.

That there are some who believe that they could actually make it utterly impossible for us to frolic in the grass and sing in the shower and kiss with passionate intent. Only we ourselves, could do that, to ourselves, through paranoia and fear. What they do to us is merely spark a numb panic. That it’s apparently a little known fact that if you walk more slowly and move more mindfully and really look at what's going on around you at any given moment and take in all the information and let it drift over your consciousness and if you breathe more deeply and meaningfully the world will orient itself accordingly to match your careful and quiet pace and you'll discover it's not really about trying to keep up with the world but more about the world shaping and adapting itself to your approach and your rhythm but the unfortunate part is this is all just terribly easy to do but more easy to forget which is what most people do eventually anyway.

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