Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Snoozing Through Our Wake Up Call

Five years ago yesterday, it was another beautiful Tuesday morning. I had just received my promotion and things were going well. Arrived at work in Uniondale, Long Island at 8:30am. The sun was already beaming through the huge windows at my desk. My supervisor was sitting across from me listening to her voicemail. Flicking on my computer to start my day, she hung up her phone and announced to me that a plane hit the World Trade Center.

“What a moron,” I thought to myself. “Probably some stupid, rich asshole who just got his pilot’s license flying his ‘more money then I will probably see in a lifetime’ Cessna.” Shortly thereafter, a co-worker came running around the cubicles saying another plane hit the other tower. The murmuring started and people made their way to the conference room to turn on the television. The vision of the two towers on fire is forever seared in my memory. A moment of disbelief as we all stared at the screen. The minute I could recapture my thoughts, they lead me to my father and sister-in-law who worked in mid-town. By the time I got back to my desk, there was a voicemail from my father. He said that he was meeting up with my sister-in-law and getting out of the city as fast as they could. He ended the call, like any of his calls, and said he loved me but the urgency in his voice made this time so much different.

Our Vice President came out and announced that we could leave. Doing so, I headed straight home and turned on the television. By this time, the news of the Pentagon being hit was also on the news. My mother called…being stuck in a classroom, I told her what was happening. My mother is not one to be easily shocked and takes things in stride more than most. This time, I could hear the utter disbelief.

Taking after my mother in many ways, I was resolute to stay calm but nothing could have prepared me for seeing the towers fall. Just a year earlier, I had stood at the top of the South Tower. My lifelong sense of safety had been shattered. Conflict and terror was something that happened somewhere to other people. Even the previous attack on the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City Bombing did not rattle my foundation.

What happened next was the most amazing part of this story.

The dust settled, and what emerged was a unified and compassionate America. Feeling like I was living in a dream, strangers would say “Hello” as you passed. Customers didn’t cut each other on the checkout line. People really would help ‘little old ladies’ cross the street. Americans proudly sang the National Anthem at events even if they couldn’t carry a tune. Even my hard-nosed company handed out American flags and told us that no one was charged for the time they left on September 11th and even wished us all well.

But like most dreams, it came to an end. Shortly after the year anniversary, people stopped wearing the flag pins on their lapels; flags on cars became scarce and soon everyone was angry again. Even criminals, who seemed to be on holiday, were back in business. Fear once again became the comfort. Who should we fear now?

We were told that Iraq DEFINITELY had weapons of mass destruction, and no doubt, would look to use it on us. Be afraid…be very afraid!!! Just turn on the news or open a newspaper…the fear was all around us. The ‘evildoers’ were coming!

Yesterday marked the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Where I am now…no one said a word. No one seemed to acknowledge that this day held any significance from any other Monday. No one had flag pins on their lapel or seemed to take a moment of silence or reflection that morning. Disheartened at the lack of patriotism…I guess I expected more.

But are we really to blame for our lack of empathy?

A country now shrouded in fear and divided by a war. No clear reason that we can agree upon for being there and knowingly lied to by our government about those reasons. Headlines reading about 40,000 Iraqis being killed…photos of children killed and maimed during this warfare…thousands of fellow Americans, trying to serve this country, but being killed for another. Fueling the flame of discord, the tears in this countries fabric are now visible.

A government for the people by the people…but if our government sets a bad example, is that a valid excuse to follow? Doesn’t it come down to the individual level?

It is easy to blame others for the misfortunes we feel. I am prime example. I write rants about bad government policy but rather than take the 20 minutes to vote at this last primary, I went to spinning class. Rather than join my local community service club, I used the excuse I was too busy. Rather than fetching a homeless woman food, I looked at my feet and kept walking. Being more concerned with saving my money for an I-pod then donating a few bucks to the St. Judes Church who keeps sending me address stickers.

If September 11th has taught me anything, it is that life is short and unpredictable. Making excuses and holding grudges will not make me feel better. Showing compassion is actually easier than hate…for I must be the change I wish to see in the world.

Rise and shine!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just so you know I dressed in all black on monday and still feel the pain and anger of 9-11-01.