Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years After

On that sunny morning, life was lovely. My husband drove our beautiful 4-year-old son to his preschool on the way to work, and I stayed home with our baby girl. She had celebrated her first birthday just 5 days before. I took a load of laundry out of the dryer and brought it to the living room, where Emma played with her toys and I folded baby clothes as the Today Show hummed along in the background.

We were so happy then, at 8:45 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in Orlando, Florida; we were so blessed, so in love, the future looked so bright.

I don't want to think about what happened after 8:46 that morning. I don't want to remember seeing it happen on live television. I don't want to remember going to pick Charlie up at the JCC Preschool, because they were evacuating the entire JCC, because, well, you know: Jewish Community Center. Or how they thought Disney World could be a target next, and they closed everything, and so Alex came home from work.

I don't want to remember, because when I do, I get that feeling in my gut again, a feeling I had never experienced until that day, a feeling I just can't put a name to. It was horror, uncertainty, fear, anger, dread and disbelief all wrapped in the most crushing sadness, like acid in my belly, denying me my breath. Most of the day I don't remember, moving through the chores and routines, holding onto my children, both mercifully too young to understand what had happened. That night, though, after they were asleep, I went out driving alone, just me and the unbearable feeling in my gut. I ended up at my parents' church with other people who, like me, didn't know what else to do. And it didn't matter that I wasn't religious. It was all I could do.

Now it is ten years later. All over the media there are remembrances, tributes and tales. Americans will fly flags and say "never forget" – as if that were even possible – and this is how I feel:

I want none of it.

Because I'm not just an American. I am a member of the human race. And that day, a great hole was torn through the cosmic fabric that holds us together, the result of a willful act of hatred by one group of humans against another. A gash rimmed with blood, full of the screams of the dead and the wounded and their families and, truly, every one of us. All of humanity was changed – not just Americans – deeply and forever, when hatred drove those planes into the towers.

When I look back over the last ten years, I know that we, as humans, have failed miserably at mending that hole. If anything, it has grown larger, more ragged and bloody. The hatred has oozed into our media, our politics, our religion. We have gone backwards.

So on this anniversary -- a word I hesitate to use, because it should celebrate happy events, not this -- on this day, I don't want to watch the remembrances, the tributes, the tales. I do not want to replay the images in my mind. Because everything changed forever that day. We lost our innocence. It sent my husband, a former New Yorker, into a depression that lasted years. The acid ate away at me, at my self-confidence and faith in the future. Ultimately, our marriage did not survive. That is hard enough to accept, much less reliving the catalyst for it all.

Ten years later, I will sit on my back porch and close my eyes and try not to remember, because that acid in my gut is still a feeling I don't know what to do with. But I know I'll fail, and I know I'll cry, because what I will remember is how things were at 8:45 that day, when I sat on the couch folding onesies, and my baby girl stacked her toy blocks and squealed with pure, simple happiness. And I'll pray, such as I do, that someday the hole can be mended and the healing will actually start.


  1. Beautiful words!! I agree!!!

  2. Beautifully written, Leanne. Many of the people flying the American flag today will go back to calling our President a Socialist Muslim terrorist tomorrow, if they even wait that long. I prefer to look to the future, with hope and optimism, that my fellow earth-mates will someday get their shit together and coexist peacefully. A girl can dream.

  3. I could not possibly say it better than Nancy did.

  4. Karen, I agree... brilliant observation, Nancy! I'm dreaming right along with you.

  5. Maybe I had already lost my innocence by then, for though I was affected by the horror of it all it never changed my view of humans or the world we live in. Brought it closer to home, yes, but didn't really change the way things have been for thousands of years. I do allow for hope in my pragmatic view so I also will dream along with Nancy. Perhaps that is the true strength of being human.
    Brian Sempsrott