Anniversary of 9/11 today. Just writing out those numbers brings back the memory of that morning, turning on the TV, and watching in stricken horror as that plane curved around and aimed itself at the tower and then hit it. How the film was replayed again and again until the majority of viewers were dealing with some form of shock or trauma as the images penetrated to an untold depth that still remains all of these years later. I remember sitting alone, tears rolling down my face, trying to comprehend what I was seeing, trying also to push away the reality at the same time. Not wanting to know that the world I knew had just been altered irrevocably.
Far too wounded to reach out to anyone, I sat there lost in reaction, for at least an hour. Tuning out the voices of the commentators, watching that looping film clip over and over again, finally knowing that the outcome wouldn’t change, and no one would say that it was a hoax of some sick Orson Welles wannabe. It was real, it was true, and I knew that nothing would ever be the same.
The Nation, of which I was a citizen, had lost it’s innocence, had entered into a grief process that would shake it to its core. We would slowly work our way through the stages of grief: denial, anger, blame, bargaining, and eventually a re-commitment to life. Would we ever truly heal or recover? And all those individuals, family members who must pick up the pieces of shattered lives, how would they fair? And the numbers just kept mounting.
The depth of my own personal reaction came days later, as I was driving down the highway, to run some errand. I looked out my windshield and saw a plane in the sky and immediately ducked my head and began to pull over to the side of the road in fear. Then remembered that I had heard that airplanes would once again be allowed to fly. Couldn’t help but wonder how many thousands of others had a similar response to that first glimpse of silver moving through blue, a common ordinary image that had now been changed, perhaps forever.
We have gone on, as we must. But a moment of silence, an allowance for memory to honor those who were lost, and those who experienced that loss, seems an absolute necessity this morning. Nothing else will do.
Didn’t have any idea about what I would write this morning, but it certainly wasn’t the above. Yet, as soon as I typed in those numbers, I was flung back in time to that first moment of awareness. My first response was to struggle against it, but then decided to go with whatever was going on. I did. And I’m glad that I did. Although a painful thing more times than not, a loss of innocence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That is not to say that 9/11 wasn’t an absolutely devastating and horrible experience. It was, is, in untold ways that may still be occurring, in the dark silence of our inner workings. It certainly is doing that within my own person.
But innocence is ignorance, a lack of knowledge and experience. To consciously and deliberately give it up is one thing, to have it ripped away by unknown hands is quite another. Yet, the consequence to both is the same. A new form of knowing and understanding. With that new understanding of how the world really works, we are given the opportunity to either destroy or create a different world and environment. One that is either based in compassion born of worked through resolution, or hatred, and the corresponding actions that stem from one or the other.
Which one have you chosen?