I remember standing in the living room, not really understanding what I was seeing, and knowing that it was serious because Dad came home over lunch hour to see it for himself on the news. The footage of the plane running into the World Trade towers kept playing over and over. Over dinner, I asked what had happened. Somehow we learned the gravity of this attack. As a 12-year old, I returned to my room, laid on my yellow quilted bed, and wept.
My tears were hot, but they were not as scalding as the tears of my American neighbors. My school teacher’s daughter was safe despite being in the vicinity of the Pentagon that day. Americans were incensed, shocked, hurting: Who would do this? What led to this? What now?
It didn’t matter who we were or where we lived, we saw something that shook us: flat out assault on a nation, and the ushering in of darkness.
My heart hurts for the people who lost loved ones- on both sides. Blood is shed all over- innocent victims, perpetrators, combatants, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. Safety became a cultural ideal, an idea, but hardly a reality. The Other, as always, grew in his/her threat. We’ve arrived at the reality that our world has always been broken, but 9/11 and attacks in other countries are deep gouges in our humanity. People who are afraid need to be feared because their grief is unabated and they want to return blow for blow. Jamie Anderson echoes wise words: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corner of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” We are not only grieving who we have lost since then, but we are grieving in a time rife with change. People turn towards leaders, or violence, or the bottle, or what have you. Some turn to God, but honestly, sometimes God looks just as empty and broken as you and me.
I will not end all this by saying “Look at how far we’ve come since then” or “We are hopeful because x, y or z”. Be quiet. Acknowledge where you stand and the safety that allows you to stand there. Grieving kneads our knots and sores, but we need to listen before we act out of our pain. And then maybe, such listening will open us- but until then, let’s hold this day and the people around the world who continue to be affected by this grief.