Sunday, September 11, 2011

What if I don't want to remember?

I don't.  I don't want to remember a decade ago, that horrible day.  I didn't lose anybody close to me, but I lost my security in a lot of ways.  It certainly destroyed my belief that the people around me are generally reasonable and kind.

I was 5 months pregnant with Zane, after 7 years of infertility and miscarriages, I had finally made it far enough in a pregnancy that I could feel him kicking just the week before, while in the car driving from the very, very small western Kansas town to the "BIG CITY" (Lenexa, in the Kansas City Metro area). My husband was on day two of the job we had moved there for, moving because we had been told the company hadn't laid anybody off in over 40 years.  He was working in one of the buildings that was jokingly  referred to as the "twin towers".

I was sitting in the living room, surrounded by boxes, settling into my morning cup of coffee and flipping through channels.  I remember that as I was flipping I saw a building on fire and, continuing to flip through channels, somewhere in the back of my mind I thought it was a Die Hard movie, but then, realizing that it didn't quite look like that, flipped back to that channel.  Just as I was starting to realize what was going on, I saw the second plane crash into the building.  In that instant I never felt farther away from people, more isolated, or more vulnerable.  Pregnant and wholly alone, and scared, with no way to contact my husband, in a city I didn't know yet, and very little money because the move had taken nearly every cent we had.  Trapped.

That day, as I stared at the tv screen, and as I stood in line for hours to get gas, one thought kept ringing through my head.  "What kind of world am I bringing this baby into".  Well, now I know.  It could be worse, it could be much worse, but it sure isn't a better world than it was on September 10, 2001.

Meanwhile, my husband was working in a room that resembles those mission control rooms in NASA you see in the movies, with all the desks and massive, gigantic wall of television screens everywhere, tuned to every news and weather channel in the United States.  It was at Sprint's NOC (Network Operation Center), where they monitored any events across the US which could interfere with internet service.  So, not only did he see the first news coverage of it, he saw it over, and over, and over again, in every permeation, on every news channel, all day.  Those images are still burned in his near-photographic memory today, and they still haunt him.

The event, as horrifying as it was, wasn't as enduring as the aftermath.  I knew that there were terrorists, I knew people could do unfathomable damage (after all, the Oklahoma City Bombing was more local, and I participated in helping gather some of the evidence the FBI had to sort through, and I had one degree of separation from both victims and bombers), but the reaction of the people around me was so totally different.  People came together, but it was in a supportive way.  After 9/11 it was bloodlust.  Bloodlust and Nationalism on a level that shook me to my core.

After 9/11 the vigils weren't a feeling of community and shared grief, it was a feeling of, well, terror.  In the vigils that followed the buildings coming down, the streets were lined with people blasting "Proud to Be an American", holding candles, and talking about killing, and the people around me didn't lose anybody personally either.

I had 2 Native American friends, in two different cities, that were threatened repeatedly because they were mistaken for being Arabic.  I am quite sure my Arabic friends had the same experience.

When the Kansas City paper came out with their edition the next day, it included a newsprint flag.  Initially, I refused to hang the flag because it wasn't a "proper" flag.  Being printed on newsprint meant it was disposable, and I found that offensive.  However, when I had no less than 3 people actually threaten me physical harm for being "un-American" by not having the flag displayed, being alone and vulnerable, I displayed it.  I kept it up until it started to discolor, and then I couldn't stand it any more.  I was really upset by how many people displayed flags improperly during that time.  You would think that if you felt moved to display a flag, you would at least look up the rules.  A line of tattered flags on your extended cab giant Red Chevy Pick-Up truck does not make you look patriotic, it makes you look like you have no respect for the flag.

I think the part that I found the most disheartening is that people across our nation began living in fear, and let it dictate how they treated people, and what they allowed to happen to our nation.  The ironically and ill-named "Patriot Act" was just the most shameful thing that our people have ever let go through our government, and it's effect is enduring and invasive.  That day was the catalyst for the loss of thousands of lives in the Middle East, both soldiers and civilians, both Americans and our "enemies", lives that should not have been lost, but were, because of the fear that has swept our nation. The security theater that happens everywhere, especially airports, means the terrorists did actually win the day.  They won. The fear mongers keep feeding us, keep dividing us, and keep us focused on hate.  That is not what we should be about.  If we truly are a nation "Under God", we should be a nation of Love, not Hate.  And, right now, we are, without a doubt, about as far away from a nation Under God as we have been since the inception of our country, but not for the reasons the "right" wing would have us believe.  Quite the opposite.  Really.

So, if you will forgive me, I don't want to remember.  But, I will remember.  I will always remember.  For anybody old enough, how could we possibly forget?  Even those of us who weren't there, who didn't smell the smoke, who didn't have somebody stolen from us that day, it is a part of who we are now.  It doesn't really matter if we want to remember or not.

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