Sunday, September 11, 2011

Getting Back to Normal, 10 Years Later

This sign hung on the fence where the towers once stood

It's September 11th, 2011.  Ten years ago we, as a country, were under attack.  When it started, we didn't know who or why or what the end result would be.  On that day, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. This number doesn't include the hijackers, the heart attack sufferers, the miscarried or those who have died since, as a result of injuries or toxic dust that they encountered that day. 

 On this day, I am relieved to have cancelled my cable. I don't think I could stand the constant barrage of images and recounted stories that I have seen all over the internet for the past week. Please don't misunderstand, my heart breaks and my throat closes every time I see those images and hear the stories of people who were there and/or lost friends and family as a result of the attacks.  Like most everyone else in the world, my tv was on nonstop for days, trying to see and understand what was happening.  I was at Ground Zero (where I took these photos) on the 5th anniversary of the attacks and cried for 24 hours straight as I walked the streets, meeting people, touching pieces of history.  The reading of the names has never left my mind.  September 11th, 2001 is something that none of us are ever going to be able to forget.  Even without the week long, sensationalized recounting by the media, the candle light vigils and the t shirts.


We will never forget.

St Paul's Chapel cemetery

 Today everyone takes a break from hating on the gays, arresting the raw milk farmers, and trying to eliminate the rights of any group with different ideas, hopes and values.  Wouldn't it be nice if if every day could be like this, without thousands of people dying?  I feel that the best way to honor those lost on that day, is to get along, have perspective, and compassion, be good to one another, like we were in the days that followed.  I am spending my weekend with my community, sharing ideas and work.  Hopefully building bridges, rather than digging moats.

A few days after September 11th, 2001, I wrote a letter, that was published in our local paper, expressing my feelings.  All around me there was so much hate and fear and paranoia, but I was feeling something very different.  Yesterday I thought of this piece and decided to dust it off and print it here, as my own tribute to 9-11.

 Getting Back To Normal
Everywhere I turn, these days, I hear someone saying, "We just need to get back to normal, go about your everyday business. That's the best thing we can do right now..."  I beg to differ.  In fact, I beg you all to never go back to what we called "normal" before Sept. 11th.

A homeless NY man
I have long been depressed by what I saw as "Ugly Americanism"; capitalism gone to the extreme.  Humans passing each other on the streets without so much as a glance in the direction of their fellow travelers.  So many people in such a hurry to achieve, that they spend increasingly less time with their families, and have no friends outside of work. And they don't seem to care.  Above all, they don't seem to care.

There are horrible things happening to people and lands all over the world, but America isn't quick to act if our own financial interests aren't involved.  Here, at home, those who "have" look down on and rarely even perceive as human those who have not been so fortunate. For decades this has been what's passed as normal.  I've always been ashamed of my country's self serving attitudes here and abroad. I had lost all hope that there were still enough good, decent, caring people left to allow us to survive as the human race.  We are torn apart by everything from race to religion, abortion rights to same sex marriage, breastfeeding to education.  Until two weeks ago, we had become a nation divided by issues that we can now consider unimportant. Now we are worried about whether or not our children will be exposed to nuclear holocaust or germ warfare.  And, if they're spared, will they be drafted to fight in a war against fanaticism? 

I have been fortunate enough, since September 11th, to see that there are indeed enough good people left.

They are all around us if we take the time to notice.  Please, take the time to notice.  Say hello to strangers and teach your children that it's ok. Walk around your neighborhood.  Offer to help someone that you may see as undeserving.  Blow bubbles with your children and fill them with wishes. Dance in the rain and celebrate the ability to do so.  Bask in the glory that is freedom because, as I have come to realize, freedom is what America is all about.  The flag has a new meaning to me, one that I will never again take for granted. 

We are free.  Free to make changes for the better. Please do. Never forget this moment in time and please, don't ever get back to normal.