I wrote this one year after the September 11th, 2001 attacks.
A year ago today, I went home at lunchtime to find my roommate, who’d been working most of the night, sleeping and totally unaware of the crisis that had occurred. I shook him awake. “Don’t you know what they’ve done to our country?” I asked. It was the first time I had ever thought of the United States as my country.
When I’d first arrived at work that morning, I found my co-workers gathered in the conference room, gripping hot cups of coffee and staring blankly at the television. That’s when I saw the first of many instant replays of the Twin Towers being destroyed by commercial airlines. Destroyed by humans, I should say, for the planes themselves had no say in the matter. It was like watching a movie, a tragedy played out with the help of digital effects. It was so unimaginable that anyone would fly a plane full of people into a building, also filled with people. It had to be a movie.
But then they played a different clip of the scene. This one had sound. You could hear the plane hitting one of the buildings. It could have been fake audio, for sure, but somehow my brain knew the difference. The sound was real. And it was spine chilling.
A year later, we are once again flooded with the images, as though any of us have forgotten.
I don’t need to see those planes hitting the Towers and the Pentagon again. I don’t need to hear the sound of that plane smashing into the buildings again, killing thousands of defenseless people. I don’t need to see the tears again or hear the screams and cries of the people directly affected by the tragedy. I don’t need to hear the stories of the ones who escaped the Towers and the ones who didn’t.
What I need is to hear stories of hope for humanity. What I need is to be assured that nothing like that will ever happen again. What I need is to hear that we are all safe, that there are no enemies, that the world is at peace. But no one can offer these reassurances. The fact is that something like this – or even worse – could happen again to any one of us at any time. The fact is we are not any safer today than we were a year ago, despite what the political puppets say. We have never really been safe.
Today, a year later, as I walked back to work after lunch, after being bombarded with the replays of that day over and over, I passed the Catholic schoolyard. I pass this playground every day and pay little attention to it, but today it was different. Today the children were all dressed in red, white and blue. Today the children were all working together, sticking red and blue plastic cups into the chain link fence to form replicas of the American flag.
Maybe we will never be safe, but today those children gave me something to believe in. Today those children gave me hope.