I remember that Sepember 11, 2001 dawned clear and bright. The cloudless sky was a brilliant shade of blue and the sunlight hadn't seemed so clear in a long time.
Primo (almost 8 months old at the time) and I were at home. I was watching TV. Scott and my mom (who was living with us at the time) had left for work already. I was watching a morning news program when they reported that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. What a horrible accident, I thought. Then, a few minutes later, another plane. My mom called, "This is not an accident," she said. I tried calling Scott, but he was working out in the gym, watching everything from an exercise bike.
The Pentagon. Pennsylvania. I called my girl friend, who was living on a Marine Corps Air Station at the time. They were fine.
I thought back to how I had interviewed for a couple of jobs in New York City in the year before. How one of those jobs was at a dot com in the financial district. I was glad I hadn't been offered one of those jobs. I remembered watching the coverage, watching those two towers-which I could see from the nearby highway overpass that I drove almost daily-collapse into dust and smoke. Watching papers from the office buildings fall like snow from the sky. Watching desperate people jump from the windows of those towers. Thinking about the firefighters, police officers, and civilians who were trapped in the rubble. Rejoicing at the recovery of one of the victims.
I remember how in the next couple of days, everyone walked around, numb. I remember how the wind shifted, blowing into our town in New Jersey from the East, from Manhattan, only 15 or 20 miles away as the crow flies. How hazy everything was and the smell that came in through our open windows. The smell of death.
I remember how six months afterward, the pain was lessened and there were two bright lights in the night sky which brought more comfort than I could have guessed as I looked up at them from my house, or anywhere I happened to be in our area.
I remember thinking about how life will never be the same again. This innocence, naivete, that we all had about how safe we were-how what happened in Israel almost every day could never happen here-was gone. How my child, my children to come, would always have September 11 in their history. How Primo would never remember a time when the Twin Towers stood tall, a symbol of American prosperity and our engineering ingenuity.
And how do I answer the questions of the 4th graders I taught in CCD that year? "Mrs. G., how can God let that happen? How could he let those bad guys kill all those people," when I wasn't entirely sure of the answers myself?
I also remember how we all came together, proud to be American. I remember that we were all going to show this new enemy, Osama Bin Laden, what we were made of and how we were not going to be bowed; we would not quake at his shaking fist. We live in the greatest country in the world, damnit!
Looking back now from the distance of 8 years, I wonder, where has that feeling of one-ness gone? Where has the feeling that we really DO live in the greatest country in the world gone? Where did all of that goodwill go?
September 11, 2001, was a day of senseless cruelty, of mass murder. It showed us how we needed each other. It showed us how truly selfless most of us are. Remember those firefighters and policemen, clergy and laypeople, who all rushed into the burning skyscrapers with no regard for their own safety? Where is that sense of selflessness now? Where is the unity?
Will it take another disaster for us to get it back?