It is September 11. For nineteen years, this has been a day that, no matter what the world outside actually looks like, always seems clouded and tinged with darkness to me, and no doubt to countless other Americans too.
It was the events of September 11 and their aftermath that inspired me, compelled me almost, to write in a current events/political vein. It was that compulsion that not only helped me work through the horrific attacks—they affected me very deeply—but indeed affected the course of my entire life, ultimately introducing me to dear friends and compatriots through my writing—in fact, I met my husband as a result of the writing I began just weeks into 2002 because it was the only way I could comprehend and work out what happened that hideous, awful day and the things I saw happening afterwards. Strange, strange life indeed.
Our world flipped upside down, and truthfully, time split for those old enough to know what happened that Tuesday morning: before 9/11, and after. Not that the specific threat was unknown and unconsidered or even unexperienced (remember the Cole), but there’s something about 3,000 Americans being murdered, about a plane willingly crashed into a Pennsylvania field by its intended victims so that very plane wouldn’t become a missile aimed at our national Capitol. Something about being a Detroiter and the unimaginable being said over the radio—the Big Three have evacuated their largest offices and their plants, and knowing the same is happening all over the nation, and hearing absolute pure horror stories on the same radio while at your desk, the sun somehow still blazing beautifully across a gorgeous blue September sky. You see it through the window, but it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t seem to be real, because men flew planes into the WTC and people were still alive inside and police and firefighters charged into it to rescue those people—then it all literally crashed to the earth.
Somehow the life before 9/11 doesn’t seem real, either. Once you’ve heard a grown man in New York City screaming on live radio “Oh my G-D! OH MY G-D!” before descending into unintelligibility when the second plane hits the second Tower, seen people leap from a gigantic burning building, the Towers fall with a horrifying heart-breaking whispering roar live on the radio I am listening to people die, and then they’ve hit the Pentagon and yet another plane has crashed and every plane in the sky is being grounded, but oh, there are a few not responding, then dazedly stumbled through the nightmare of the following days—seemingly every surface of NYC covered in countless “missing” posters, dust-covered ghosts of first responders, Americans digging through the wreckage hoping to find one more living soul, celebrations of the murder in nations we had no animus toward, interviews with wives and husbands and parents and employers still hoping their loved one would be found alive—is it any wonder? It was a horror from which, in some ways, there will be no awakening. For yours truly, there is not, actually. I still can’t see a clear September sky, particularly on a Tuesday, without recalling that plane turning with sickening grace into the second Tower, bursting into hellish flame. Truly, only God knows how those who actually knew someone lost in that vile attack feel.
Yet here we are, just shy of twenty years later. We wept and raged and ached and still stand. Every year, the names are read from the roll; we wonder at those who gave their life in the hope of saving another. For a few brief days, bloodied and bruised, we stood together—Americans. A people unlike any other, for we are descended from all the world.
I think we can be that nation again. I pray we can be that nation again. Of course, attacks from within are always more difficult to beat back than those from without. When brother is willing to take up arms against his brother—and if you’re an American of any heritage, I consider you to be much more my brother than, say, someone in France or England, though some of my ancestors are from these nations—perhaps even angels tremble. Rebellion is a terribly destructive thing, like a splash of sewage into a glass of the best wine; that wine itself becomes sewage. Born of pridefulness, envy, and ingratitude, bitterly unwilling to “reason together” though the hand of grace is extended, rebellion taints all and destroys much.
May it be God’s will we somehow make it through trauma again.
Please, never forget 9/11—none of it.