In thinking on the passage of time
Dear Bam-Bam -
Since the day 5 years ago that several fanatical men took over four planes filled with innocent people and crashed them into important places around the country, I've struggled with what to tell you, how to explain it, how to retell my experience to you when the time came. I remember about a year and a half after the attacks, I was at a scrapbooking retreat finishing the book with your first year pictures in it. I felt then and have felt several times since that I needed to commit something to that book for you about that day.
The page remains empty.
Of course Amy says it so eloquently that I feel I should just plagiarism her entire entry and rewrite it for your book. But then, that's been done already. If I did that, though, you wouldn't feel anything from me in the words and as the one responsible for your past, present and future, I sit here with 27 minutes left of the anniversary trying to piece together something of substance, deep with feeling and meaning for you. Let's hope I don't come up short. Here goes...
Five years ago, I sat at my desk at Engineered Systems, probably updating the cashflow spreadsheet because, well, I was constantly updating the cashflow spreadsheet, when Chuck, Nana's son who was our assistant, said that MSNBC was reporting a plane crash into the World Trade Center building in New York City. Wow, I thought, how terrible. Then I thought, sheesh Chuck, stop surfing the net and get back to work (ha ha, sorry, moving on).
A few minutes passed and he started updating me more on what was happening.
The plane was large and the whole top of one of the towers was on fire.
A second plane had crashed into the other tower.
That plane was big too.
All airline travel was grounded.
Possible car bombs in Washington DC.
A third plane into the Pentagon.
A fourth plane into a field in Pennsylvania.
The news just kept coming at us, at live-feed level. Fear started to envelop everyone in the office.
Aunie called me sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 and as we spoke, the first tower collapsed. Aunie cried, sobbed actually, into the phone in disbelief. We stayed on the phone together until the second tower fell when she decided she needed to hang up. We told one another we loved each other.
I called daddy to tell him I was scared.
Grammy Honda checked in, Auntie Kim, Grammy Gee, Auntie Lisa. We all reached out to each other to say "I love you, we're going to be ok".
My friend, a firefighter, called and he talked about how the loss of the members of the FDNY was reminding him of the Worcester Cold Storage fire and that he was investigating ways to be sent to Ground Zero to help out. I remember that scaring me.
Throughout the rest of the day the underlying fear that grew in me was the question: "Is it over yet? Are we safe?"
I went and picked you up straight from work and remember that we wanted you to be able to sleep in our bed with us that night, to keep you "safe", but you were only 18 weeks old so we decided not to. Of course, the irony was that you didn't sleep with us because it wasn't "safe" for you to in our waterbed but we wanted you there to keep you "safe" from the outside. "Safe" had a whole new meaning.
The men that took over the planes that day had succeeded. They'd scared us all. They took away our feeling of security and innocence. They made it hard to move forward.
Major events were cancelled out of respect for the lost. An awards show, baseball games, Monday Night Football, the Loudon NASCAR race. We walked a fine line for quite a while in trying to determine when it would be ok, if ever, to get our lives back to normal. In saying we, I mean the collective national "we", not just the me, you and daddy kind of we.
Eventually, though, things slowly did return to what can only be called the New Normal. The New Normal included a new skyline for the city of New York. New regulations on what is and is not allowed in carry-on luggage on a flight. New shift in priorities. New uneasiness over whether we are ever really safe. Whether our government, no matter what person or party is in office, is really capable of keeping us completely safe. New reminders that it isn't about what religion you practice because every heart is capable of either loving or hating, it's the person that makes the choice.
In the months immediately following the attacks, our national leaders made the decision to move our troops into Afghanistan, a country in the Middle East, because they believed that the man that orchestrated the fanatical men that took over the planes and crashed them around the country lived there. As of today, five years later, they have not caught that man.
Subsequently, those same national leaders decided to send even MORE troops into Iraq on the implication that the man in charge of Iraq had something to do with the guy from Afghanistan leading the fanatical guys to take over the planes that crashed around the country. I can't say for sure, but I don't think they'll ever be able to say for certain if that guy in Iraq had anything to do with that guy from Afghanistan. Nonetheless, I now worry that 13 years from now, I'll need to send you to Canada instead of having you fill out a Selective Service card because I don't believe our troops will be out of Iraq by then. They caught that guy in Iraq but at the rate they're going, they may never be able to get their country running on their own, peaceful, and self-sustaining and if they can't do that then our country will more than likely need to reinstate the draft to keep the flow of men and women in and out of the country.
Now, five years later, we grieve not only the more than 2800 lives lost that day, but the families destroyed, the children growing up without one or both parents, the lives lost to the fighting in Iraq, the bodies damaged by the fighting in Iraq, the changes far and near as a result of the attacks that day. Some of the victims were local, like Thomas McGuinness from Portsmouth who was the co-pilot on Flight 11, the first plane hijacked and crashed that day. Or while at war in Iraq, Jeremiah "Jay" Holmes from North Berwick lost his life and left a little boy behind with no memories.
I will confess to you today, my boy, that I don't follow the news anymore. It's too difficult to get caught up in the semantics of why things happen the way they do. I liked my life before 9/11/01. I liked being naive. I liked not knowing and I feel that if I follow along too closely, it will only fuel my fear and debilitate me and for your sake as much as mine, I can't let that happen. I can only promise to do my best to keep you out of harms way. My struggle now is how to teach you that the world is as safe as we can hope for but never 100 percent tragedy-proof.
I love you my boy. You've been a nice distraction from the reality of the New Normal. Having you to focus on instead of the bad stuff and events has given me clarity. Even though we can never forget, never will forget, we also can't dwell on it either. I doubt any of the victims would want that for us. I believe, I have to believe, that they would want us to keep going because otherwise the men who did this to them will have won and I don't think any of us can let that happen.
I love you.
Labels: National Nostalgia