Tuesday, September 11, 2012

American Horror Story

"Don't wish, don't start. Wishing only wounds the heart..." These words have been in constant thought for a few days, though I'm unsure why. I don't find myself wishing for much... and then I realize what today is, and it starts to make a little more sense. Stephen Schwartz wasn't talking about a spectacularly horrifying event in American history when he wrote those words, but they fit in so easily to so many scenarios.

I don't want to talk about 9/11 so much as the things it has brought us as a nation. I don't want to tell you who first broke the news to me, or what I was wearing, where I was when I watched the second tower fall or what I ate for breakfast as it happened. I remember all of those things... and that day I realized what my mother felt when she learned of President Kennedy's assassination.

I think some of the magnitude of that day is lost on the younger generations. You can't learn from history books what it really meant, what it caused, or what has been forgotten in the wreckage of hindsight. The heartbreak of a nation and the immediate oneness it produced cannot be replicated by Hollywood. Unless you were aware of the still that followed and the pause which held for days and weeks following, you cannot know the ache of the nation.

There has been subsequent finger-pointing since. Who knew what before and intel that was privy to only those highest in rank... hearsay and rumors... secrets and lies... if/then statements of the preventative nature. Eleven years later the fact remains: September 11th happen to America. Thousands of people died for going to work or boarding a plane. Heroes were revealed. Bravery found a new definition. A renewed and deeper respect for public servants was ingrained into those citizens who understood the sacrifice given.

And after eleven years it seems such a regression has taken place. Maybe it's because it's an election year and hate is the common currency. Maybe it's that even when people say "I'll never forget", they have. Not the event, not the horror, not the sorrow or the lives lost, but the way it brought us as Americans together, the united feeling we had and the vulnerability it revealed. Maybe it's the difficulty of the years that have followed since 2001: a recession, sub-prime mortgages, another recession, conflict in the Middle East, national debt, the health care crisis, etcetera etcetera etcetera.   

Hope is as common as fear, though. And hope - at least I think - is what got us through that day, and the days that followed. And soon enough we were back to living our lives and rebuilding a city that needed hope and help and healing. We learned stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. "Let's roll" became synonymous with courage. And we recovered. Though the wound closed, the scar will always be there as it is most evident in the New York skyline and a field in rural Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon... on the hearts of those left behind and the mental landscape of a nation. Even if it doesn't look like it now, as it didn't then, we are better for it, as we have always been through our short history of suffering and triumph.

Don't wish, don't start. Cities crumble, worlds fall apart. Nothing to do but watch and pray we will make it through.... we always do.    

1 comment:

  1. What got me through was anger, I think. What has stuck with me is the personal responsibility. Even if the country as a whole got worse in the years following, the responsibility I have borne during that time hasn't changed. I still feel compelled to put forth effort to try to focus on our common humanity, as we did for a fleeting while right after 9/11. I am not a hand-wringer...it is unfortunate, but common of human nature, that that nationwide feeling didn't last long. However, I can't be responsible for the country. I can only be responsible for me, and so my goal has been to care more about what brings me closer to another person rather than what pulls me further away from them. All you can do is all you can do. ;)