September 9, 2011

Y3W: I Heart NY

September 11th, 2001

I was a Freshman at the University of Colorado. I had Advanced Spanish 2 at 8 am. My next "dorm door" neighbor Coral and I had class together. We walked into class laughing but immediately fell silent as ssshh's echoed the room and we noticed the entire class huddled around a small TV up front.

It only took seconds for the rest of the class to fill us in. Words like hijacked, Twin Towers, fire, airplanes and mass casualties clanged around my head like so many pennies in a tin can, a cacophany that I couldn't put into harmony. I vaguely remember becoming dizzy, reaching for Coral's hand and the two of us swaying together as the horror unfolded on the screen.

Less than five minutes after we walked in the classroom we watched in utter shock and disbelief as the South Tower collapsed.

I'd like to think that there were screams in the classroom; it seems so fitting. Instead, there were muffled gasps, quiet sobbing and the sound of someone anxiously gulping of water.

Almost thirty minutes later, we quietly watched, with tears streaming down many cheeks, as the North Tower began its collapse.

Shortly after, we were dimissed early from class.

I darted out of the building to call my father who at that time worked in the tallest building in downtown Denver. The last words our professor spoke to us were, "they could be targeting other major cities. If you have family who work in Denver call them and tell them to get out.". I was utterly terrified for my father. It took me countless attmepts to get through to him and the rush of relief I felt at his voice made me lightheaded. MY father was ok. His building and downtown Denver had been evacuated, but don't you worry, he was heading for the capitol building. Stubborn man that one.

Eventually, Coral and I reconvened with each other and with one of the football players who lived in our dorm, Sean. Even Sean, a perpetual joker, was solem that morning.

I remember looking up at the sky with it's white puffy clouds; it was the kind of perfect blue that only Boulder, Colorado can create. The Flatirons were particularly striking; the air was the perfect temperature. I thought, "this can't be right. This can't be happening on a day like today." We should have spent the rest of that day laying out on Sewall Lawn or Norlin Quad, laughing with our roomates and dorm-mates while we made dates and plans for the upcoming weekend. Instead we spent the entire day camped in one dorm room or the other prefering to huddle under blankets and hug pillows rather than sit in the uncomfortable couches in the common room. We may or may not have eaten lunch and dinner. We watched the news all day long. We listened as President Bush addressed the nation. Our RAs hopped about from room to room offering comfort and concern, seeing if we needed anything. In fact, our RA even brought us cookies. I remember that now. Eventually, the reality of what had happened began to seep in as the day's events came more clearly into focus.

Thinking about living that day almost 1,800 miles from where the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 took place, my stomach turns and winds its way into greasy knots of nausea.

It's ten years later now. Tower One is nearly complete near Ground Zero; it is a welcome presence in the New York City skyline. The National September 11 Memorial Museum is set to open. I've seen documentaries on it, and they bring me to tears. So much was lost that day. So many people, families, lives and souls were destroyed. My heart ached and aches still for their losses, for the wounds that still sting, for the scars not yet healed.

Yet, I can't hate.

I've always been raised under the mantra "kill 'em with kindness". My mother beat that into my head when I was growing up. Sometimes I fell short of its aim, but most of the time I tried.

I always thought that the more productive thing to do to really stick it to Osama Bin Laden and his cronies was to faithfully mourn our losses, hold each other as we grieved and to go on living and loving each other. I have too sensitive a soul to let hatred live inside me for that long. To live in terror is to allow him and people like him to win. In the end, even during that day that was dark as night, babies were still born, wedding vows were said and people passed peacefully away surrounded by their loved ones. Even as a black sea of grief threatened to swamp our great nation strangers reached out to hold one another, bonds of love were forged and eloquent acts of service were performed.  The greatest act of love is to lay down one's life for his brother. Even if all we could feel was sickened anger that bubbled towards something closer to hate, love was present in the world that day.

When Seal Team Six assasinated Osama bin Laden, I didn't know how or what to feel. My heart stayed in a state of confusion for days. I was proud of our military for pulling off such a feat. I hoped for some closure for the families of the victims of September 11th.

There was a part of me that wanted to join in with the crowds, chanting USA USA USA, crowing about our prowess, and sing out ding dong the witch is dead! That is the part of me that is always proud to be an American, who would never live somewhere else and if called to would bear arms in her defense. Then there was a part of me who wanted to bury my head under the covers until the onslaught of curse words, racial slurs and hatred faded from the internet, from Facebook and world news.

It wasn't because I wasn't glad of his death, or because I supported his aims, but because Christ calls us to love. I could not tolerate the level of hatred emanating from every outlet. I leaned heavily on my faith taking comfort that this man who commited unspeakable and atrocious acts of evil would be judged accordingly.

There were some funny jokes, emails and videos and I got a kick out of some of them. I mostly prayed though. I prayed for my family, for the families of the victims of the September 11 Attacks. I prayed for my child, that she would never witness acts such as the September 11th attacks, that the innocence of her life would never be sullied by hatred this deep. I prayed for peace and for understanding. I prayed for this to be unifying instead of more devisive for our country. I prayed for President Obama and everyone in his staff -- that they would handle this diplomatically enough to continue to keep us all safe.

Love begets love. The same way the love my husband and I have for each other generously multiplied when Evie was born, if you love another only more love can be the result. The world has enough hate and I wanted to show love.

I have newspaper articles, email forwards, pictures from the internet, newspapers and magazines from the days immediately following September 11, 2001. They are all tucked away in a box. I remember thinking as I cut them out that I was living through history right now. It was tragic and terrible, but I was in the middle of it and this would be an important day in the history of America. I thought one day my child, or maybe even the child of my child, might like to take these things to her history classes. When I was in 7th or 8th grade someone brought in newspaper clippings their grandparents (great grandparents maybe) saved from when Nazi Germany fell. I remember looking at them, holding them and thinking that I was connecting with someone who lived this day in history. Evie wasn't even a twinkle in her Daddy's eye yet and I was already thinking of her.

I also have a picture of what I wrote on the banner that the students of CU sent to Ground Zero. It is a poem by Mother Theresa. I'm sure you've heard it or read it. It is entitled "Anyway" it is beautiful and one of my favorites.

I always thought that was the best lesson, to LOVE anyway. To shove it right up the arse of Osama bin Laden and hate mongers like him, love each other. Pay it forward. Practice random acts of kindness. Get married. Hold hands in the park. Have babies. Paint. Laugh until it hurts. Find some joy every day. Reach out. Otherwise, we've let them win far more than we thought.

I plan to spend Sunday with my family, listening to my daughter laugh, loving my husband and wrestling with the world's worst puppy dogs and  thanking God for every typical joy filled day I am granted here on this earth.
I'll be remembering all of the heroes of September 11, 2001. The families who lost loved ones. The children who have grown up with out their mommy or daddy. The souls that perished in the crashes, the collapse and the ensuing rescue missions and all of our military who have lost their lives since in the war on terror. I'll be praying for all of them.

What are your memories of September 11, 2001?