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Reflecting on September 11, 2001 September 10, 2008

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
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I was eleven days out of work in suburban Chicago on September 11, 2001. My daughter’s first week away at college as a freshman. My son off to grade school and my wife off to work. I was shuffling through resumes while I waited for my dial-up AOL service to give me the news of the day. Michael Jordan coming out of retirement again? Winners never know WHEN to quit, I thought to myself.

Spreading papers on the floor to try to get my focus on my job search I was distracted for a few minutes. I refreshed the news page out of habit, I guess, and there was a photo of some kind of explosion at the World Trade Center in New York.

As I was looking at the page, the phone rang. My wife asking urgently, “Are you watching this?” I wasn’t so I went over to the bedroom and turned on the TV. What could I think? I told her to sit tight and I would call her back when I could sort it out. As if it was in my power as a husband to fix this. Not five minutes passed when the phone rang again. My daughter. Nearly panicked, she asked more urgently than my wife, “What’s going on daddy? Are we all going to die?” As calmly as I could I explained the small town where she was sitting wasn’t a likely target for terror, if that was what this was. It still wasn’t clear to me. I told her just to sit tight and pray. I would call her back shortly. It took less than an hour for it to begin to sink in. By 11 am it was abundantly clear.

As we sit here seven years later, we all know what happened. Well, all of us but the handful who still believe George Bush or “the government” did it. It was a moment when our nation was presented the face and grip of evil like never before. It was obvious. Today, it doesn’t seem as obvious anymore to many who’d rather believe in the basic goodness of humanity instead of its basic depravity. How could it take such a short time to stray back to the former path that led to this disaster?

One reason could be that not enough of us have visited that field in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon or the Twin Towers site, with the goal of re-visiting those essential feelings. I did that with my son in April 2007 on a visit to New York City. It was an uncharacteristically cool and rainy period in the city but it didn’t stop us from doing all the tourist stuff we set out to do. We arrived about mid-morning in a light rain. Emerging from the subway and walking over to the site, I felt the bitterness of sadness underpinned with an unspeakable anger. As we arrived at the side with all the memorials of people who died, I cried, more deeply and mournfully than I thought possible. My son put his hand on my shoulder and I remember clenching my teeth and saying, “Kill them all. Damn them. Kill them all.” After I calmed down I didn’t apologize to anyone for what I said. I meant it. The rain wouldn’t cleanse this wound. Divine retribution would be the only solution. As God had planned it, that power was not mine so the feeling passed harmlessly enough, or so it seemed.

Seven years later I harbor the same feeling. I don’t breakdown and cry as often as I might if I saw the places frequently, but I still don’t seek forgiveness or absolution for this thing. I consider it righteous indignation. I have discovered that there are times when healing doesn’t come. I have discovered that there are times when there is no closure, no peace. I have come to believe that it is put there to steel my resolve, strengthen my heart for the loose ends this fallen world leaves us with from time to time. So, I won’t forget September 11, 2001, even if I was a thousand miles away and didn’t lose anyone directly associated with me. That’s a loose end that won’t be tied.

Did I find a job? Yes, in November 2001 in Virginia, about 50 miles from DC. It was just in time to endure the DC Sniper, but that’s a story for another time.

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