I must admit there is a part of me which wants to pay my respects by giving a “moment of silence” today – by NOT posting anything about September 11th. But I know, ultimately, that would be a lazy response. I also admit that I don’t feel equipped to write about the individual loss that my fellow Americans suffered that day – and continue to bear and live with to this day. I didn’t lose a family member, soul-mate or cherished friend. But my heart was as heavily crushed as it had ever experienced. I can still feel the weight of it now, as I write this. Crushed.
My whole family is from New York. Maternal and Paternal. My maternal Grandmother, who played a primary role in parenting us, moved to Manhattan from the Virgin Islands in 1923. She raised her family there, spending weekends on the Eastern coast. We have countless pictures taken on the Rockaway, Howard, and Orchard beaches. My mother met my father there. My sister and I were born there. We spent summers there visiting relatives. Every time I have ever returned to New York it has always felt like coming home.
The city and her people get inside you – like a virus – but a good one. An inimitable energy, a certain fragrance, always comfortable – like a favorite old pair of jeans or soft, long-sleeved sweater.
But my heart wasn’t shattered just because it was New York that was targeted, it was way beyond that. It was my fellow Americans. The very blink-of-the-eye it became clear that this was an attack on our Country, it ceased being only about my birthplace and her people – it became about my Homeland and her people.
I remember my adrenaline rushing at the thought, “O my God, we’re at WAR.” How was I to think otherwise? I mean really? I was still naïve enough to believe, and believe wholeheartedly, that because what was done was such a bold & undeniable act of war, that our government, our Armed Forces, would respond with a swift and heavy hand. I sat, sobbing, trying to wrap my head around the thought of a “real” war taking place on American soil in my lifetime – what would we and our children suffer through? I picked my daughter up from school that day.
I assumed that whoever was behind the attack had a lot more ammunition up their sleeve and would most certainly be unleashing it upon us. If not, why would they do something so brutal and globally public? They must have known it would REQUIRE immediate hardcore action on our part. Wouldn’t it? Not exactly.
Ironically, in an article I read within last few hours, 21-year-old, Emily Withrow, who was 9 at the time, came the closest to verbalizing how I felt:
“I was suddenly aware of the fact that there were people in the world who hated us just for being us, and that was scariest part because there was no way for me to reach them to tell them or show them or convince them that they shouldn’t hate me.”
Withrow remembers her childhood mind mentally preparing for wars like those she had studied in school. “Mostly I just had an awareness that whatever it was we were going to do, there would be hardships we would have to endure, but that didn’t happen,” she said. “I thought people would be fighting everywhere, in the streets, in our backyards. I didn’t realize that we would be going somewhere and that it really wouldn’t affect our country and its normal stability.”
Days turned into weeks, into months, then years. A decade later the “war on terror” still wages on. The blood still cries out from Ground Zero… and I wonder if we’ve made Zero Ground. As a people, America’s citizens have certainly lost some ground on personal liberties and freedoms – whether we acknowledge it or not. Due to the fact that we were (and still are) such a ‘SuperPower‘, I wonder if the whole world has changed because of what happened here on 9/11. I can’t imagine it has changed for the better. But I do imagine that it can. That our world still bursts at the seams with potential to grow and change for the much better. For that to occur, the true war that must be fought is one which must take place one individual at a time – it must take place within the human soul.
We must each become true and living PeaceMakers. As long as Lust for Power & Control and Greed reign in the human heart we will never find Peace. The Bravery and Selflessness shown by so many who perished that morning can find a new Heartbeat to live within each of us, if we allow it.
Today I am trying to focus on being in a state of gratitude rather than mourning. When I look at places like South/Sudan (including Darfur), Afghanistan, Somalia, and Burundi, we still live in a relatively luxurious state of peace. Even in researching the places to include on my “Macro Mission” through Latin America, looking for Countries which are in most need of help, I was surprised that Brazil was on the top of the list (along with Columbia) for being in a long-term state of violent unrest. I’ve said before, it is my hope that in leaving my beloved Homeland, I will only grow to appreciate her more. That hope has been fueled by remembering this fateful day in our history. And beginning within my own soul – it is my mission to find that Heartbeat of Bravery, of Selflessness and of a PeaceMaker.