Those two words, “Never Forget” echo in our minds over the past two decades since four planes were used as weapons to wreak havoc and destruction and take lives. 2977 people died between the three locations: The World Trade Center, Shanksville, PA and The Pentagon and the ripple effect expanded out to the world, as likely everyone in this country knew someone who either died at one of those sites or was a First Responder who answered the call, at their own peril.
On September 10th, at 8:46:40 AM, most of the world was oblivious to what would be transpiring 24 hours later as Flight 11 crashed into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center. With the exception of the terrorists (and if you believe the conspiracy theories, officials in high places in our government,) no one had a clue about the horrors that would unfold…the smoke, the explosions, the twisted metal, and more importantly, lives snuffed out.
As is the case with so many pivotal moments in history, such as the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK and John Lennon and the January 6th Insurrection, people remember where they were when they received the news that life changed dramatically. I was working as a social worker in a nursing home in Philadelphia called Golden Slipper Uptown Home. Many of the Residents were immigrants from Eastern Europe, some were Holocaust survivors who had lost family in concentration camps. I walked into one of the lounges where some were eating breakfast. The television was on and as I watched the first plane crash into the tower my thought was, “What kind of crazy movie are they watching?” A moment later, I realized, with horror that it was real. Amazing how our minds are capable of holding several thoughts at rapid fire pace. Mine were that I wasn’t going to give the terrorists my fear, since it feeds the fire and thankfulness that some of these folks who had come to feel like grandparents to me, were nodding off in their wheelchairs and some had dementia and had no clue what was unfolding in real time on the screen. The staff looked at each other in bewilderment, trying valiantly to hold back tears. We knew we had to hold it together to care for them even as we worried about our own families. My son was 14 at the time and the school was dismissing the students, so I needed to leave work to pick him up. My sister-in-law and then brother-in-law who lived in Hoboken, worked in the location where the devastation was taking place. I couldn’t reach her all day and prayed for her safety, as well as that of all others who could be alive in all three sites of the conflagration. By the end of the day, she confirmed that they both were spared. He was running late and never made it across the river and she arrived by ferry to see the first plane hit and was able to turn around.
As a therapist, I had wanted to offer my services to First Responders and rescue crews, but with nearly lifelong respiratory problems, I thought it wouldn’t be prudent. Instead I spent time on a crisis hotline locally where people called in to talk about their feelings about the day when terror rained from the sky. 18 people from Bucks County, PA (my neck of the woods) who used to commute to the city for work were killed that morning. The 9-11 Garden of Reflection Memorial Park was created to honor all of the victims; and is located in Lower Makefield, PA. I have never visited it, but feel called to do so. A few years back I walked through the Memorial in NYC and had an immense sense of sadness and being an empath, could hear the murmurs of those who met their destiny on those grounds.
On September 12th, people from all over the world did what they do best; pulled together to help. I remember seeing a bumper sticker that resonated with that energy, “God Bless the whole world, no exceptions”.
Ten years ago, I wrote this observation about the day.
Perched on a stool in the window at Saxby’s in Doylestown, watching the world go by. Noticing ‘a day like any other day’; except it isn’t. A couple walking by, pushing their bicycles along the sidewalk, a little boy walking a black lab puppy, two young women, hoods over their heads, walking in the door of the coffee shop, a man with a t-shirt with a target on it, inviting snipers to dare to pick him off, another speaking Russian on his cell phone, runners taking to the streets in prep for a marathon, flashing lights of fire trucks whose personnel are chatting calmly at the corner of State and Main, after putting up barricades for the race, rather than risking their lives, running into burning buildings, young families with children who entered the world after everything changed. A silver Jeep Patriot parked out front, which invites the question..what is a patriot? In my mind, it isn’t the rallying cry, “My country, right or wrong.” It is more about being a world citizen, holding myself and my fellow planetary dwellers accountable for our choices, knowing that peace is an inside job and the thoughts we hold and share feed the common pot of what can be either be Peace Soup or Catastrophic Chili. I prefer the former, since it is far more life sustaining and soul satisfying.
At the service this morning at Circle of Miracles, we spoke of the healing that has taken place in the past decade; the ways in which we have grown up from the desire for retaliation, to one of reconciliation. One of the things that was expressed, was the sentiment: “We can’t kill our way to peace.” It reminds me of the Michael Franti song called Bomb the World. Part of the chorus is : “We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace.” Power to the peaceful!
I honor those whose corporeal existence ended while being present when destruction reigned, by refusing to (as I did on that day) feed the situation and its memory; fear. Instead, I offer them and those who love them, the healing balm of light.
As I perused Facebook over the past few days, I was heartened to see the messages of healing and love, with only a few that called for ‘get ’em back’ mentality. We are a resilient species and will survive and thrive if we are capable of growing past the focus on war and fear and anger and enter into this new world in which love leads and peace prevails.
Are you ready to step through that portal with me? I promise it will be an exciting adventure!
Last night, I watched a special on MSNBC called Memory Box- Echoes of 9/11that featured interviews with people who lost someone that day. The initial interviews were in 2001 and the follow ups were earlier this year. It was fascinating to see how the people had aged and had integrated their losses into their lives. They didn’t get over it. Impossible to do. They did get on with it. One woman named Mary Adams, lost her brother Charlie. She described the aftermath. She was a social worker who worked with girls who were at risk. She took two weeks off from work to take care of herself. When she returned, her clients hugged her. She related that they knew she wouldn’t be healed in those two weeks. These were young people who had suddenly lost family members to violence so they had a sense of what she was feeling.
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