That's approximately what we got after 9/11.
We were no longer competitors, adversaries, enemies, Republicans/Democrats, or "us" and "them." For about a month, I noticed more courteous driving, more flags flying, more patriotism, more kindness, more gentle acts, and more peace. How is it that such a heinous act created such a perfect peace for a little while?
The answer is that suddenly we felt we were all in this together. We realized that we are connected by more than email or phone lines. We saw the humanity in every pair of eyes we met...mostly.
I heard about the crashes from the man who was supposed to come do an appraisal of our home for a refi. Hubby and I had stayed home that morning, sleeping in a little for a Tuesday, to wait for the man to show up. He was supposed to be there around 10 a.m. The phone rang, shattered that early morning slumber. The appraiser was on the phone saying he'd be late. At first I was a little miffed, because if he was late, I'd be later getting to work.
"...because I want to see this unfold on the news," he was saying.
"What's on the news? Did something happen?" I asked. It was just around 9:00.
"Just turn on your set, and you'll see. I'll call you when I'm on my way,"
I grabbed the remote control from the nightstand and turned on The Today Show. There were the twin towers of the World Trade Center, smoke pouring from one of them. My mouth hung open. The headlines said a plane had hit one of the towers of the WTC. Reaching over my shoulder I shook my husband a little roughly. "Wake up! Something's happened!"
I got out of bed and hurried over to the recliner in our sitting area, right in front of the television. Hubby sat up and grabbed his glasses.
"What's going on?"
The broadcasters were saying that they didn't yet know if it was a small plane or a jet. There was speculation about what circumstances could have possibly led to an airliner making such a mistake as to run into such a huge landmark. They talked about an earlier incident of a small plane being flown into the towers. As my husband made his way over to sit in his recliner, a huge plane came into view on camera and flew right into the center of Tower 2.
"Oh my God!" we said in unison. We repeated it over and over.
"We're under attack," I said.
"It certainly looks that way," he said.
Who could do such a thing, we wondered. A little while later, we saw the plane hit the Pentagon. We were mortified. We live in the DC area and wondered what was next. Were we next? Were bombs going to be dropped? On the local stations they were telling us to stay inside, to stay off the roads. It was the most surreal day of my life, and I later wrote a play about it.
When those towers went down into a pile of rubble, I cried. You see, when I was traveling for work, one of my stops was Citibank in the Financial District of NYC, just a couple of blocks over from the WTC. I stayed in the WTC Marriott while in New York. That hotel was crushed beneath the rubble of the buildings. It was obliterated, and with it so many human lives. I can't even imagine what was going through the minds of those in the buildings, those leaping to their deaths to avoid death by fire, and those slowly suffocating from the fumes and smoke. One poem, shared today by Daryl, said what I could not imagine, and it said it poignantly. Isn't that really the goal of art? To make the inexplicable real and accessible to us, whether it be beauty or tragedy?
The rest of our day wasn't much different from that of the rest of Americans. We stayed glued to the television. We stayed home. We didn't even go to the store, staying inside all day with our children and pets. None of us had the stomach to live a normal life that day. I do remember snapping at my son when he came in and wanted to know if we wanted to watch a movie. I couldn't believe that he didn't understand the gravity of what was happening. I tried to impart that to him. He shuffled back to his room and played a video game.
I don't know how we managed to sleep that night, but we were exhausted. All I could think of was whether or not the end of our nation as we knew it had come or was coming. No one could assure us that we were safe. They couldn't.
The next day we went to work, but the television was on in the break room, carrying constant news as it did for the rest of the week. We worked for an international company at which we had Egyptians (remember that one of the key hijackers was Egyptian), Iranians, Iraqis, and many other nationalities. One of my Iraqi co-workers' grandmother was attacked at the mall because she was a "terrorist" in the month that followed 9/11. She was beaten bloody and ended up in the hospital, all because she was going to do a little shopping. That's why I say "for the most part" we were better that next month.
If only we could recapture the good part of that month, the fellowship, the kindness, the peace, and the interconnectedness we all felt that day. We were all New Yorkers; we were all Washingtonians. We were all grieving that day and in the 7 years that have followed. None of it makes sense still. How could a man who lives in a cave wreak such havoc on our nation? And why do we still not have him in custody?
Somehow we managed to get the man against whom Bush and his dad had a grudge, but we somehow missed the important one, the one who slaughtered almost 3000 people on 9/11/01.
Think about that for a moment. Do you feel safe? I don't.
How about a little peace again? D