Thursday, September 11, 2008

I remember...

September 11th will be my generation's John F. Kennedy assassination, or V-day or John Lennon's Assassination or Elvis dying. We all remember where we were when the planes hit the twin towers.

I was on the phone with my mother while I was at work. She is a senior citizen and lives alone and I had made it a habit to check in with her every morning. She is the one that told me about the first plane...and was on the phone with me when the second plane hit. I have no idea what the rest of the conversation that day was.

I worked in an insurance company that had recently installed large televisions that ran Report on Business Television...except that day, when every eye of the world was turned to New York City. A large gathering of employees stood in shock in front of the television, some of us standing, some of us sitting. We joined the worldwide vigil, joined the worldwide grief as the towers collapsed, and joined the worldwide vigil for survivors. I would watch for awhile, then walk back to my desk, only to be drawn back to the television again. I was a compliance consultant, and somehow, legislation just didn't matter that day. Unfortunately, one of the senior managers happened to walk by both times I was transfixed in horror, in almost exactly the same spot. She didn't know that I had only recently returned and assumed that I was "wasting my day" in front of the television. As far as she was concerned, it should be business as usual. My husband, who worked in the same company, worked his whole day. There was nothing "usual" about that day, and I was incapable of usual work. It became one of the last nails in my professional coffin...

I have always been very empathetic, and I've never understood mean. I was overwhelmed by the feelings of fear and terror that must have covered the innocents on the planes. I was dumbfounded by a hatred so powerful that the lives of other human beings became meaningless. And I was paralyzed with the "mean" that it would take to kill thousands of innocent people. I couldn't understand how anyone could do something so horrible. I was numb, I was devastated and I was emotionally incapacitated.

I remember the frantic attempts of one of my coworkers to reach her son, who was in New York on business. Cell phone reception was nil. She finally reached her daughter in law, who had just received word that her son was safe. My relief was as great as hers, but it magnified what was going on in thousands of homes all over the world.

Over the next few days, I kept vigil with the world as the search for survivors continued. I felt guilty when I finally turned off the television and watched an animal show with horses and agility dogs competing at the same time. I had to smile at the dogs, and then felt like I was turning my back on the victims because I had turned the channel. I had chosen to watch something else and I felt like a traitor to the vigil.I have a picture of the World Trade Centre from a trip to New York City in 1984. The first thing I did when I got home the night of the tragedy was go looking for the picture...I needed to ground myself in reality in a surreal day.

Years pass. The memorials are less, although I suspect the 10th anniversary will be different. The site has changed from Ground Zero to a construction zone as the towers are rebuilt. I don't agree with re-building on the site of so many deaths, but I've always believed in ghosts and I have always been very sensitive to the spatial energy around us. I don't want to visit the place of so much fear, sadness and pain.

I still don't understand the motivation. I don't judge it, because I don't know enough about the underlying fundamentalist thought to fairly assess it. Fundamentalist anyone make me nervous, whether it is political, religious, sexual or even food. I tend to be fairly accepting and moderate, but I also think that "agree to disagree" is a good philosophy. I don't think that anyone has the right to force his/her opinions down anyone else's throat. I don't think that all followers of Islam were responsible for September 11 anymore than I, as a Roman Catholic am responsible for the Crusades, or I, with Irish in my blood, am responsible for the Troubles. Individuals chose to act and the whole should not be held accountable for the actions of the few.

So on this September 11, I pause to remember and to offer a prayer for anyone touched by the day the Towers came down. I remember...

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