I was on bedrest, lying on the couch. I had kissed hubby off to work, and my baby was kicking inside of me as I turned on the TV, which happened upon the WB channel. The screen showed a plane hitting the twin towers, and I thought, “What a stupid movie, that can’t happen in real life.” So, I switched stations. The same footage appeared on another channel, and another, and another…
We were on the West Coast. While we’d slept, the world had changed as we knew it, and we were waking up to the nightmare. Hope living inside me, in the form of a new life, while horror struck the nation.
We connected, because there was nothing else we could do, and we needed to hear our loved ones’ voices. As thousands that day would never hear again.
Phone calls to my sister, a few towns over. Updates from my husband in Silicon Valley. Word of my brother-in-law in San Francisco’s Union Square. Everyone told to go home. My dad in Iowa and mom in Arizona. Friends close by, and those scattered across the nation. We just needed to hear the voices. We needed to feel close.
My eyes viewed the terror on TV and my ear hurt from the phone pressed against it.
Flights were landing with people stranded everywhere. I told a friend whose sister had just been diverted to Omaha, have her get a rental car, now! They’re shutting down flights.
Unimaginable death and pain in NYC, PA, and DC. Shock waves rippled through the states.
On the West Coast, we thought we were next. Who’s going to get it–Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco…? I could hear planes overhead as they called them in to land. We didn’t know what was next, a dirty bomb? It was the unknown that kept us on edge. The military scrambled fighter jets. The future, as always, was uncertain but we jumped at every report.
And, later, silence.
People went home. I heard no hum from traffic on the freeway, no trains bringing commuters home from the city, and no planes overhead. It was eerily quiet.
That evening, the comforting words of our President, sitting in the Oval Office, speaking to the nation brought us calm and a reminder of our own resilience as a nation. We were raw, we were spent, and we were in disbelief. We grieved with those who had lost loved ones, whose lives were shattered, but somehow, we knew that as a nation, we’d prevail. We knew we were made of tougher stuff.
And, today? We’re softer. And, we’re angrier. And we’re divided into a thousand factions, like pieces of glass from a vase slipped onto a tile floor. No more vase. No more unity.
I think of those flag-lined streets and I grieve for a time when having pride in American principles was a good thing. I grieve for a people who hugged others more tightly that day; who spoke to their neighbors more willingly; who didn’t take your prayers as a slam against their atheism and let you pray.
I yearn for a people who didn’t barricade themselves inside social media prisons and feed on trumped up anger and resentment toward others. I ache for people who didn’t decimate the honor of strangers in 40-characters-or-less under the guise of activism and righteousness. I long for a people who fact-checked and didn’t propagate lies or half-truths for their own benefit. I miss a people who didn’t easily jump on board with hit-pieces designed to inflict pain and suffering on others.
And, while I see the fury boiling over today, in the streets and in our cyber communities, and I see the gasoline people pour on the hate, I pray for people to stop. To lay down their bricks and keyboards of destruction. To seek out peace not war. To build bridges, not sow dissent, and to find common ground…to harvest love and forgiveness.
And, I think of those flags, waving proudly in the front of houses down my street in San Jose, California, and I wonder what happened to us as a nation? How did we go from the phoenix rising from the ashes of the World Trade Center and communing with our neighbors, to calling our neighbors horrific names using abhorrent language?
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And, I think, people must hate themselves in the way they treat others.
But, I hold out hope. There is always hope.
Seven days after 9/11, my hope was born. She came pink and screaming into the world. And, maybe that’s how we’ll find our way back to each other: through the babies’ cries and hope for their futures.
And, while my baby turns 19 years old this year, I still have hope inside me.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)