Sunday, September 11, 2011
September 11, 2011: How do you feel now?
The sun has risen and set on three thousand six hundred and fifty days, yet my memory is as clear as the sparkling azure sky on that morning I dropped off my six-year-old for her fifth day of first grade. She slammed the door of the Ford Ranger, I waved goodbye and, as usual, flipped on the news radio station.
Five hundred and twenty weeks ago, I listened as anonymous reporters and eye witnesses recounted the young day's events as I drove. Before even speeding up enough to shift the stick into third, I had learned that three jet liners had been hijacked.
What? Planes aren't hijacked anymore. They haven't been hijacked for thirty years—not since the days of D.B. Cooper.
Two had been flown into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon.
Okay, that's impossible. No pilot would do that, even at gunpoint.
Both towers subsequently toppled, killing thousands, perhaps tens of thousands.
That's ridiculous. It's impossible for two passenger aircraft, no matter how large, to completely destroy a pair of hundred-story skyscrapers.
And that's when my brain ceased processing data, when the shock response in my amygdala engulfed all emotion in a scratchy, woolen blanket of disbelief.
Do you remember the little details which transpired in the following days and weeks? Were you harnessed with an invisible bungee cord, long enough to reach only the bathroom and kitchen before snapping you back to witness the macabre, commercial-free spectacle on television?
Do you recall the haunting quiet in the skies above? Did you attempt to shield your young children from the news? Did you lie down at night wondering, "First the planes hit, then the anthrax...what's next?"
Were you afraid?
I wasn't a child when those planes hit, but a massive bubble of naivete and innocence which had previously enveloped me like a womb, burst that sunny morning. It's cold out here, I thought.
So very cold.
I became suspicious, as the terror alert bounced from yellow to orange to red back to orange. I spotted an unattended lunch cooler in a work elevator which prompted a hasty call to building security. Any loud jet noises over the city elicited an involuntary neck jerk, forcing my focus skyward.
And now, we're one hundred and twenty months removed from the seismic paradigm shift that was September 11, 2001. How do you feel about things?
Do you feel safe? Has your life changed the way you'd anticipated it would?
Have you sacrificed? After America was thrust into World War II on December 7, 1941, "sacrifice" entered the household vernacular. Rosie the Riveter and victory gardens, rationing tickets and war bonds contributed to a united effort for a world on the brink.
I have not sacrificed. Unless you care to count arriving at the airport half an hour earlier than before and removing my shoes and putting my shoes back on before I boarded that plane to Vegas.
The one percent of our population which comprises our military has assumed one hundred percent of the risk. Our nation remains as politically divisive as ever; pettiness prevails on both sides of the aisle and "patriotism," in word, rather than meaning, has morphed into a polarizing weapon of the right.
The world needs healing, yet America has turned inward and lashed out at the same time. George W. Bush famously ended every speech during his presidency with the words, "May God bless you. And may God Bless the United States of America."
The problem was that he stopped there.
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