A BIT OF EXCITEMENT I'M GLAD I DIDN'T GET CLOSER TO
Maybe you folks in the blogosphere heard about those twisters that ripped through Indiana Friday - well, one of them passed within maybe a half a mile of my workplace - I wasn't there, though. I was headed to an appointment, and went through an intersection about 5 minutes or so before the twister came through and kind of trashed the area (none of which I realized til I got home and saw the evening news - at the time, all we heard was the warning sirens, because the twister had veered away from us right as it passed that intersection). I just praise God nobody was killed!
It’s the evening of Sept. 10 as I’m starting to write this, with patriotic music, c/o the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, playing softly in the background. Now, where do I start? On that morning, I’d been in class on the other side of my city from where I work, and when it was over, I stepped, unknowing, out into a morning that was, if I remember, very much like the morning on the east coast – one of those bright, clear mornings that makes up for some of the Indiana summers and winters. A friend who drives me here and there was waiting for me, as usual, to take me on to work, and he told me, almost before I’d fastened my seatbelt, that I’d better call my husband, because we’d been attacked. Then he turned on his radio, and we listened in stunned silence as we barreled down the interstate; my first response was, “I hope we find out whoever still living is behind this, and I hope I have the pleasure of seeing our military blow then straight to ****!” Needless to say, I didn’t get much work done that day. I think the horror first really hit me, like a punch in the gut, when I saw those awful videos – the plane slicing into the second tower like a knife through butter; the twin gaping wounds, bleeding smoke and flame; the towers collapsing, sliding sadly down from their rightful place, tall, proud and shining, in the sky; crashing ever downward, crumbling into twisted, smoldering piles of rubble, twin mass graves, as they met the hard, unyielding ground. Then the rolling clouds of seemingly solid smoke and debris, a phantom predator eagerly chasing frantic survivors through the streets, the smashed and burning Pentagon – and all the precious lives lost; and, Oh Merciful Father, Dear Lord, please somehow comfort all the survivors!
One of the most moving commercials I think I ever saw ran during the first month or two after the attack; it was simply a series of still photos, taken around Broadway, both inside and outside the theaters, with the chorus to “Give My Regards to Broadway” playing slowly and softly, and the screen fading to black at the end, except for “The lights will never go out on New York City.” I know the words to the song, which was especially poignant in this context because it was written to express the longing for home our service men in Europe felt during WW1. So I sang along every time, and I was almost crying when I finished, every time.
It’s now Sept.11; yesterday at odd moments I was thinking, “this time a calendar year ago, those towers were still standing, and all those people were still alive,” but, on the other hand, yesterday was also 52 weeks since last Sept. 11 – my stray thoughts kept flipping back and forth. Today, I remembered the moment of silence at 7:46, but otherwise am working as usual, though still haunted by stray thoughts – wasn’t it around this time a year ago today that…? Tonight, hubby and I will go to a memorial service.
I realize that my grief is nothing compared to that of anyone who lost someone they knew last September 11; I realize I can never completely grasp the horror of what happened that day, since I wasn’t there.
But I still grieve, and I still think that I can imagine the horror, if far from completely, at least “around the edges,” so to speak. And this is why I have made a covenant with myself to NEVER FORGET. I don’t want to add my voice or my vote to anything remotely resembling surrender to the barbarians who brought this evil down on us; I want to speak words of encouragement and determination; I want to do whatever I can, no matter how small, to help my little corner of America get through whatever lies ahead.
There are two parts, I think, to this not forgetting. The first part is what I don’t dare forget – what those murderers did that day. And, since words are important, I agree with those who say that the right word to describe that isn’t “tragedy.” That word is right for a natural disaster, one of Shakespeare’s plays, or one of those real-life situations that seems like it could have come from one of Shakespeare’s plays. But to call what happened on September 11 a tragedy implies a response that is completely inadequate because it’s limited to a passive grief and horror with no chance for any effective action. Yes, we were, and are, horrified and grieving. But we need to describe September 11 as what it was; a deliberate, planned evil, an atrocity, an outrage, an act of war. These words point the way to the right response: not only grief and horror, but the clear, focused anger that will lead to the inflexible resolve we’ll need to finish the long, hard tasks of claiming justice for our dead and doing our best to make sure that, for our time at least, there won’t be any more September 11s. Anyone for some good, old- fashioned, World War II-style righteous wrath?
The second part of the not forgetting is what I don’t want to forget; the terrorists hit us with their worst, but we responded with our best. And our best was a light shining through the darkness. The rescue workers who headed straight into what must have seemed like hell on earth instead of running away from it; the passengers on Flight 93, who saved who knows how many lives at the cost of their own; all the folks who have faced danger, grief, and horror digging into and then sifting through every scrap of the obscene heaps of wreckage, on the “pile” in the “pit”, and at the landfill, looking for any trace of the dead: they all will deserve to be remembered as long as history is written, along with the others who have stood tall on that day and since. And, in the middle of sorrow, I am proud and humbled to be able to join in the start of this remembering.
So I’m going to use these memories to fuel my “pilot light” of anger and resolve, which, God willing, I’ll keep alight as long as we still have to deal with any enemies like those who started this fight.
Finally, I thought I’d repost this poem:
9/11 Before and After
Twin cities in the City, in the sky,
soaring to meet the clouds; greeting the sun
with joy, gladly catching golden light that
kindles answering golden light in glass
Rank upon rank of lights,
gleaming in the night like strands of diamonds,
carefully arranged in ordered rows by
a proud master jeweler.
Humming with people, busy at their work;
“Just work!” Perhaps, but careful, constant work
kindles and keeps a dream’s light glowing in
one’s heart, and in time gives it solid form.
And dreams can kindle other dreams in
other hearts, light answering to light,
life after life made brighter.
Thus rose the mighty skyline
all around, and thus the towers themselves;
built by, and built for, dreamers, who could keep
their dreams alight, and, as the metal, stone,
and glass were thrown higher and ever higher
into the sky, rejoice as they took shape.
Evil comes, killing a lovely morning,
screaming out of the sky, flashing twin knives,
unnatural weapons, filled with stolen lives.
They strike. The wounded towers now bleed smoke
and fangs of flame that race like hellish poison,
tearing at their steel. Sadly the twins falter
and fall, weeping tears of splintered glass and
metal, floor smashing into floor, their strength
and gladness crumbling into smoke and ruin
as they plunge downward, taking with them lives;
so many precious souls, that vanish, with
their dreams, their strength and gladness , love, and tears,
leaving lonely bits of paper flying
in the gray, choking dust that rolls like waves
of surging water down the streets, to whisper
mournfully of those destroyed.
now is wounded; a gash of emptiness
where once the towers stood echoes the wounds
in hearts and lives.
But God still reigns; He steers all things to suit
His purpose, even in this horror, and
has promised to one day share that purpose
with us, speaking face to face. He also
is never neutral between fear and freedom,
good and evil, and would have us fight
evil to the last ounce of our strength.
Take courage from the courage of all those:
Who fought the toxic smoke, the killing breath
of the twin ravening, snarling infernos,
to save all whom they could; who faced those
hells whose slashing fire-claws brought the towers
thundering down, rather than leave a comrade.
Who wrenched another weapon from the hand
of evil, choosing to face their own fiery
death, rather than risk other lives.
Who deal with grief and horror day by day,
sifting through each scrap of the twisted pile
of wreckage, a long-smoldering mass grave,
hoping to find some trace of those who died.
So may we truly honor
the lives lost that day, in Pennsylvania,
in the Pentagon, in the twin cities
in the City, in the sky.