Editorial: United we stand

Originally appeared in Silent News, October 2001.

I write this with a heavy heart.

A week ago today, the world seemed to end for many of us. And it did end for many people. Far too many people.

It’s convenient to think of the victims in numbers. “700, 5,000, 100.” That makes it seem all the more horrifying, all the more tragic. But start breaking the numbers down and you realize that each number represents that many personalities, that many hearts, and that many souls.

In the hours after the plane crashes, all of us reached out to each other. I, as I’m sure many of you did, received many, many e-mails from all over the world asking me if I was alive, if I was okay, especially since I am two hours from either Washington, D.C. or New York City.

So, on that day, people reached out to me and I reached out to my friends, one in particular – Moshe, a dear friend who I had met on a flight. He works as a financial analyst, and had flown out of New York City just a short time before the crashes. As soon as he landed in Ohio, he rented a car and drove all day and night to return to his wife and five kids in Long Island. He and I had somewhat of a spat the week before, but when he responded from the air saying he was alive, we immediately forgot about our silly quarrel.

I then learned that one of the Kesslers, who have a home just down the street from mine, had been next to the World Trade Center. After I interviewed them on Sept. 13, I went home, got my dog and took her to the local park as I do every day. Only, on this day, the park was completely deserted except for a man jogging around the pond wearing a t-shirt that had the U.S. flag on it, and a father with his son playing. I walked my dog a little, replaying and replaying what I had just been told by the Kesslers.

The more I thought about their words of what they had experienced, the more stunned I became. I sat down on a bench. Watching the lone jogger, I saw a flagpole next to the pond that I’d never noticed before, and the flag was at half-mast. I looked down and watched my dog, wearing an American flag bandanna around her neck sniffing innocently on the ground. Ducks swam by.

I started crying and feeling horribly guilty about being able to go to the park. The images from the past 48 hours of being glued to my television finally came down on me all at once – especially the footage I’d seen of people falling the night before. It all was so incomprehensible to me. I sat there, sobbing for about ten minutes in complete anguish and feeling completely afraid for my family, my friends and myself.

I’d like to say that someone came over and comforted me and then I knew everything would be okay. That’s not what happened. I got up, finished walking the dog, and still was crying by the time I went home. How could I not? All these people died.

Today, a week later, I went to the food store and saw people break down in tears in the aisles. I still cry even as I write this. We’re still in deep mourning, and will be for a long time to come.

We have united and shown a strong front, but we should also not forget our fears. Just over ten years ago, when President George Bush declared that we were going to war, I sat in frozen fear. I was a senior in high school. But my fears were quickly washed away with our easy victory. Other priorities, while always existent, eventually brushed my patriotism aside.

Our worst fears were confirmed again on September 11, and they may well be confirmed again and again. All we can do, though, is try and remember the individuals – not groups, but individuals – who died. We as a nation must weep. But we must also ensure that our patriotism, our love, and our remembrance do not wear off like ten years ago.

I have a card a coworker gave me years ago when there was a death in my family. It has a few lines inspired by a Greek verse. I think what it says is the best thing we can do right now, in addition to never forgetting.

Hope, it conquers the sorrow.
Shout, it eases the heartache.
Cry, it soothes the pain.
Pray, it becomes peace.

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