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I Cried. September 11, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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I was sitting in the hallway of our county courthouse when I heard the news, a murmured phrase from a passing legal clerk.  It wasn’t directed toward me, but as passing snippets go, it was hard to ignore: the United States of America was under attack, with major damage having already been inflicted on New York City.

For a long while that was all I had to work with, sitting there among the tattooed masses shuffling their feet, wanting their next cigarette almost as much as I wanted to duck out of my role as a witness in a crazy driving incident which had resulted in considerable damage.

I stayed, gradually gathering details as the buzz intensified, and was eventually shuffled into a waiting room where fifty of us were read our instructions, then parked in front of a television to wait for our names to be called.

That’s when I first saw them, the images of planes piercing sky scrapers like fiery  javelins, of columns of thick black smoke rising skyward, of pin-striped flecks peppering the air in a pixelated confusion of motion and intention and regret.

And I cried.  Publicly, silently, without concern for or even awareness of the people on my left and right, or even for the lives lost for I-knew-not-why, but rather for the Words Unspoken, the spouses left sleeping in the work-a-day pre-dawn departures, the children on school buses who would never see their Mommy or their Daddy again, the engagement rings sitting in dresser drawers which would never find their place on the unasked finger.

And as the hours passed and the towers collapsed with horrifying predictability, I cried for the True Heroes who willingly went into that maelstrom of destruction, hoping against hope to save a life, praying as they climbed the stairs that they could keep their promises to their spouses and partners and children, Yes, Daddy will be fine, Mommy will be fine, it’s an important job and I need to go do it, I’ll see you tonight my sweeties.

But not all stories have happy endings.

Eight years ago today, nearly three thousand innocents lost their lives to Fundamentalist Fervor, some incinerated in lung searing agony, some transformed in a crushing millisecond into unrecognizable stains of white and red, some following office chairs out 90th floor windows, choosing the flight of dreams when finally the consequences of such a choice were rendered moot by the actions of a dozen and a half misguided souls, their mortal bodies preceding their ties and coat-tails Earthward, their eyes filled with incongruous beauty, their ears deafened by the white noise and fury of their final act.

And then, amidst the flames and the fumes and the plumes of black smoke, three thousand souls rising, rising toward The Mystery, impervious to the toxic dust clouds, insensate to the blinding heat, the Mothers, the Fathers, the Brothers, the Sisters, the Sons and Daughters, the CEOs and the Janitors and the Hijackers rising together, relieved of all that was, freed from the fear of dying and about to have their ultimate questions answered.

It’s not so much for them that I cried that day in the courthouse, and on many subsequent days, and in particular today, as it takes me two hours and a box of tissues to write this.

I cried then, as I cry now, for those of us left behind, for family and friends and children and acquaintances and complete strangers, of which I am one, who didn’t learn, didn’t get it, didn’t see how our narrow vision of life and love and justice contributed to this unspeakable moment in time, fueled the fires of divisiveness and hatred and greed, allowed us to dismiss the lives of others as somehow less valuable than our own, begged God to send us a message which we couldn’t ignore, then ignored it.

And as our new President implores us to Hope for resumed growth, we go forward seemingly oblivious to the perils of environmental usury, taking mercilessly from whoever is weak enough to give it up, shooting holes in the stern of the colossal vessel whose bow we so smugly occupy, ignoring the interconnectedness of our pillage of other peoples’ resources and their seemingly indiscriminate  attacks on us, unwilling to assume one iota of responsibility for the condition of the world in which we all live.

It’s eight years later, and I’m still crying.