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Remembering My City of Ruins

September 11, 2010

It’s hard to fathom that it has been nine years since that fateful September morning in 2001. My experience of those moments had a profound and lasting impact on me as it has on so many others. It has not been easy to make sense of it all and I imagine it will be some time before we can see this event in its fullest perspective.  But in the telling of our individual stories we can gain a glimpse into our own hearts and into the hearts of our fellow human beings. How we responded and continue to respond to such events determines who we are as individuals, a nation and a people. Our response establishes on a continuous basis our values, our ethical and moral foundation, and our very humanity.

September of 2001 was a pivotal point in my personal life.  As I sat, or rather stood, my mouth agape, my hand clutching my chest watching as the second plane hit the tower, live and in living color on my television at home, I was doing so as a mother who only ten days earlier had delivered her first born son to college, her youngest to high school that morning and buried her father less than a year before.  I had just turned fifty the month before and the world was shifting on its axis.

Although I was living in North Carolina, New York was my home, New York City my playground through my teen and young adult years. I knew and understood and lived the thoughts and reactions of the people of New York as I watched horrified as the towers began to crumble ~ seemingly in slow motion at first and then with the speed of lightning it was over ~ I screamed, sensing viscerally the horror of the reality that played before me like a movie. I was frozen in place, unable to release the rush of adrenaline with action as tears streamed down my face.  I could not move, I could not breathe, I could not stop, slow, avert, or respond to the tragedy that played out.  My city…my city’s in ruins.

When I could breathe, even for a second, I called my husband and my son and then hung the American flag that had been stashed in a closet on the front of our house. I followed an instinct I didn’t even know existed in me. A pacifist and Vietnam War protester in my youth, I didn’t know I had any national pride. But, it was there, lurking and powerful beneath my frustrations and disappointment in our country.

Like the day I discovered that God was not responsible for what Christians did in His name and stopped holding Him hostage for the lack of love that the church had shown to me and others, I released my grip on our government as being responsible for our country’s shortcomings. WE are this country. WE are responsible for what happens to it and when WE felt the blow of evil WE rose up and expressed the best of what we are as human beings.

The powerful lyrics and haunting melody of the song Into the Fire by Bruce Springsteen paints an incredible picture of what it means to sacrifice oneself for love, honor and country…for the higher good…the greater purpose…the whole, not the individual.

Into the Fire

by Bruce Springsteen

The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love

You gave your love to see in fields of red and autumn brown
You gave your love to me and lay your young body down
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need you near but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

It was dark, too dark to see, you held me in the light you gave
You lay your hand on me
Then walked into the darkness of your smoky grave
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

If that is all we learn from 9/11 then maybe it’s enough.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Elle Krause permalink
    September 12, 2010 1:36 am

    I stil can remember the night so vividly the news flashed arcoss the screen it was so difficult to comprehend such a thing , ever since then our perception of all the things we had lived by was so consumed with grief & hate ,but from that came the realisation of courage & honour & all the values we hold dear & that will always get us thru ,& after bombings near here in Bali they have not been able to diminish the human spirit I remember everyone with love & honour them & America has shown as it always has there is nothing that will stop their pursuit of peace ,fairness ad an opportunity for all ,Thank you for the chance to share with you on this sad anniversary, Elle .

  2. September 12, 2010 9:57 pm

    I can also remember exactly what I was doing on that fateful day nine years ago as the world around us collapsed and the lives of those whom this cowardly attack ended suddenly. There were so many who were doing great things or had aspirations to become more only to have their lives tragically taken. Of the 2,752 men and women that died in the World Trade Center were those of valiant firefighters who gave their best in tireless attempts to rescue them.

    A part of every American citizen still alive today died in that tragedy whether we had relatives there or not. This was truly a wake call for us in that we should never let our guard down nor take anything for granted. Though Americans are bruised and worn from this tragedy and from subsequent events that led us to launch the war on terror, our determination remains strong. America’s attempt to depose the ruling authority in Afghanistan was only the beginning of a war that has lasted far too long in an effort to disarm Al-Qaeda and those who infringed upon our freedom during the 911 attack.

    America will recover and we will become strong once again. Our memory of 911 and other catastrophes should serve as a reminder that Americans have a “never die spirit” that has gotten us through many difficult situations in the past and will continue to do so in the future. These events have taught us that no matter what we should band together as a nation. Though we may face many trials and tribulations and even though our economy is in disrepair and slowly recovering, there is no other place I’d rather be. God Bless America!

  3. September 14, 2010 5:50 pm

    Great sentence, Dorothy.

    Our response establishes on a continuous basis our values, our ethical and moral foundation, and our very humanity.

    And you’re right …

    Our response reveals a great deal about us. I hope our nation continues to evolve in peaceful, creative ways …

    Good post, enjoyed it!

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