I was over at Arlee Bird’s blog Tossing It Out yesterday reading his post Attack on Manhattan. He was reflecting on 9/11 and our emotional recovery since then. He made the point that the attacks created one of those sign posts in our life we can point to and know exactly what we were doing at that moment just like many of us know exactly what we were doing when President Kennedy was shot. (I was sitting in my 7th grade choir class when the news came over the loud speaker. It felt like the whole school sucked in its breath and held it.)
Arlee asked: What were you doing when you heard about the events of 9/11? How did 9/11 affect you at the time that it happened? How did the event affect you in the years afterwards?
We were sitting at the table getting ready to eat breakfast and had just turned the TV on in time to see the second tower fall. There was a moment of, is this a movie, before it finally hit home it was actually happening. I don’t remember whether we even ate that morning. I do remember bundling that little portable TV into the car and taking it to work with me. I set it up in the office so employees and customers could keep abreast of the situation. Why is it a crisis of any kind makes it so hard for us to look away? How many of us simply can’t drive by an accident without craning our necks to see what’s going on? And folks watched the TV all day in the shop.
I had to take the deposit to the bank that morning and do a couple errands. I was so stunned at how quiet it was everywhere I went. Deathly still. As I drove down a back street to the bank, the only sign of life I saw was a man pulling a little girl down the street in a red wagon. In that instant I had the strongest feeling that our country had just lost the innocence of that picture. I didn’t feel like anything would ever be right again.
But we’ve moved on. Little by little our country came together and presented a united front, and we’ve persisted in holding on to the ideals of those wagons and daddies and little girls. And yet I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to hang on to the seeming normalcy of our day to day lives with the mess that this election is turning into. And how is it that, unlike other crises, this nation seems to be turning its eyes and hearts away from what’s happening here?
I hate politics. It’s one of the things you don’t talk about in “polite” company (along with religion). But I’m deeply interested in WWII literature, and recently read another history book mentioning a well-known German journalist and his reaction to Hitler becoming Chancellor. He said that in his journal for that day he noted the event in one sentence and then went on to write about taking his son to swimming lessons. In looking back he wondered how in the world he could have missed such a defining moment in Germany’s history. And HE a successful journalist (though I’ll be darn if I can remember his name). Arlee’s post made me wonder if any folks in Germany regarded that day the way we did 9/11. Not everyone was on board with Hitler’s rise to power.
Are we in the same head space that journalist was in regards to this election? Could what happened to the Jewish folks in Germany happen to the Muslim folks here? Are we noting that Donald Trump made more outrageous statements to the press about women yesterday? Or that Bernie Sanders is promising relief from student loans to people knowing full well he can’t deliver on that promise? Are we dismissing these mounds of sound bites and moving right on to the next thing in our life? I’m very afraid that we are. I’m almost more afraid right now than I was the day those twin towers came down. I think this election has to be more important than one sentence in all our journals…
Thank you, Arlee, for a very thought provoking blog post.