September 11. Fifteen years ago that date became etched in the minds’ eyes of many Americans – forever. Until then, the “date in infamy” was, of course, FDR’s reference to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrpearlharbor.
If you stop and think about it for a moment most of us can recall where we were and what was going on until we heard about the plane crashing into the World Trade Towers. Each of us experiencing thoughts, feelings, questions, fears reminiscent of war time. Some of us may have only been able to relate to that date in history because we were not yet born or too young to remember the horror and terror of the bombing of the U.S.S. Arizona in the not-so-safe-harbor of the Pacific Islands of Hawaii.
On September 11, 2001 the attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C. and the passenger de-railed attack which crashed in a Pennsylvania field instilled a twenty-first century fear in me. As a parent, I feared that my children may always be in danger anytime they were in large crowds anywhere on U.S. soil. The fear sickened me.
I lived a fear filled childhood worrying about being attacked / bombed by nuclear war fare; duck and dive drills under our school desks. Years later the realization of how futile that would have been, generated feelings of deception. Did those who encouraged these drills know there was no where outside of the buried bomb shelters that would be safe? Or where they as naive as the children were trusting?
On the date of September 11, 2001 all those long ago childhood fears became real again. Those fears ushered in a chorus of “what ifs?” “Why?” Even my life-long hippie peace philosophy felt completely impossible. It was difficult to console and comfort my children, when I was facing fears that I never expected to face.
I reminded myself that my family survived Hurricane Andrew. Devastation compared to war zones. That was localized. Help from many corners of the country arrived to clean up the destruction and rebuild structures and lives. There were no deaths during the hurricane.
My children may always remember the Andrew experience. I could build their courage and confidence to survive the September 11 attacks based on how we rose against Andrew. The main difference was Andrew was an act of nature. The attacks were acts of hate. Only love can conquer hate.
On September 11, 2016 my family of fifteen years ago has changed significantly. The five of us have taken five separate and individual paths in as many directions. We are well. This Sunday morning as Americans acknowledge the fifteen years of post 911 I was on my way to Unity services.
As I approached the intersection at US 19 and Curlew Road in Palm Harbor, Florida I saw a lone celebrant on the corner. The stars and stripes respectfully waving back and forth. This person was waiting for the traffic light to change, as was I. My eyes were glued to the flag’s gentle waving. My mind slipped back to the fear triggered those days, weeks, months immediately following the violation of American soil.
My hypnotic stare followed the flag (the bearer was blocked by vehicles) as it floated across the street. Tears filled my eyes. I wondered if anyone else noticed the valiant attempts of the flag bearer. As traffic moved through the intersection, horns began to sound off. Hallelujah! Others had noticed. I tickled my horn, attempting to make it sound celebratory and supportive. The flag, I imagined continued to mark the square of that intersection for a while longer, crossing each direction as the light changed, in the hands of someone who cares.
So, one person may not be able to change the world; but one person can effect change in another and another one person at a time. That stranger reminded and impressed upon me that everyone can make a difference. Good or bad.
In a world and place in time where we can choose to be anything, I choose to be kind.