Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Way We Once Were

Sunday passed like almost any other day except for one thing...it was an important anniversary in the lives of most of us. Sure there were special programs on television to commemorate the events of 9/11 and pay homage to those whose lives were altered forever, but as a collective psyche, many of us didn't have time to really stop and think about what changed that day. It's bothered me a lot that such a pivotal moment in our existence didn't get much attention with the bulk of the population. So much so, that I feel like I need to pay my respects personally.

I live in Canada. Terrorists didn't attack us. Some of them found safe harbor here unfortunately which contributed to the events of the past 10 years, but no more than were able to hide in other parts of the world. How has my life changed because of 9/11? I can't just hop on a plane anymore for a spur of the moment trip. I can't visit my husband at work anymore without making arrangements for him to meet me at security (he works for the federal government). I don't walk blithely through life feeling totally safe in a strange place. I worry about family when they travel. I don't question or resent security in public places the way I used to. I started believing in evil and terror again like I used to when I was a child. I worry for the world and the inequality of freedom throughout much of it. I have a very real fear for the safety of my family when I'm not with them, because I know that any day something surreal could destroy them and take them away from me.

That's a little depressing. There have been some hidden positives in this process too. I try to stay in touch with family on a regular basis because of 9/11. I don't assume they'll always be around and look upon every day I have with them as a precious gift. I relish peaceful days and happy moments. I don't assume I will find time for my wish list someday. Instead I occasionally take a leap and just do some of those things so I won't miss my chance. That's not a bad thing.

Popular magazines have run stories on survivors. A well-known reporter followed the lives of 9/11 babies that lost a parent in the attacks and aired follow-up stories to show how the past 10 years has affected them. I suppose what I was missing was the moment of silence. That brief time to pause collectively as a people and think about what happened and what it means to us. Why haven't we chosen to commemorate or grieve that way? I'm not sure. Perhaps we don't want to draw attention to the success of terrorists in striking a blow against western infidels. Perhaps we worry that if we face the memory we'll have to acknowledge it more openly. Perhaps it's too painful and heightens our anxieties. Could be all those things. I know it made me a little sad. I wanted to stay home and brood a little with my loved ones, much as we did when it happened 10 years ago. But life intruded and there were things to do and before I knew it the day had fallen through my fingers and I'd never had my moment. So I'm taking one today. Today at 3:00pm I will give myself a moment's silence - no cellphone, no TV, no computer, no music. Just a brief prayer that we will always remember how precious life is and that our families are only on loan for a time. That just as evil and ugliness exist, so do love, commitment, happiness and fragile beauty. We have to have both or we can't really appreciate the things that make life worth living or remembering. And I will remember how lucky I am to have been spared that day the kind of anguish other people endured and survived so courageously. I will remember that someday it might be my turn but until then I should be very grateful for every day that it isn't.

My favorite image to come out of this anniversary has been the Ground Zero Tree - the tree that survived the destruction and has since been replanted at the site. It is a testament to me that life can survive absolute catastrophe against all odds and inspire us to do the same. 

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