>Short pieces, memories from September 11, 2001
Realizing that if Amigo could read the headline, it was big.
Both kids, then high school sophomore and fourth grader, ran into the house from their school buses calling out “Mom, did you hear what happened?”
My panic reaction of “fill the van with gas before prices jump!” only to find that the entire city had decided to do the same thing was a decision rapidly abandoned. I had half a tank, and in our normal driving habits, that would still last several weeks.
Teachers gathered in the lounge not to talk (we were a friendly, social group), but to watch a TV we’d dragged in. We’d been called in during our first recess of the day, informed of the district decisions on how to handle the situation. School was in code yellow: not in lock-down, but extra security added. We were not allowed to tell our elementary students until the end of the day.
Reactions varied, but life went on. Amigo and Chuck went to a Lions’ Camp weekend for families the following weekend. Chuck was worn out from a week of crazy stress working at the TV station. He needed to get away from media for a few days.
Every house in the neighborhood lit a candle on that Friday, an impromptu vigil spread by Internet communication. La Petite and a friend took their candles for a walk and saw our neighborhood cop with his bagpipes, playing Amazing Grace and pacing, marching a square around the corner.
Five years later, I suggested a journal prompt to my students about their memories of the attack. They remembered nothing. Nothing. They’d been in first grade, six and seven years old, and no one in the class had any recollection of the day the United States found out we were no longer invincible: we were vulnerable to terrorism on our own soil.
I remember the patriotism that followed and the sense of community that spread. But I also remember the knee-jerk reactions, including passing of a law misnamed the Patriot Act that only one senator actually read before voting.
I remember a huge power outage, a blackout in New York City the following summer, when New Yorkers pulled together rather than looted each other.
I remember a color coded warning system, advice to stock up on canned food, plastic, and duct tape in case of nuclear attack. Then we as a country calmed down and lived our lives again.
I remember a neighbor, a Muslim woman, mother of four boys, being harassed and feeling scared to get out of her minivan to fill it with gas. She is still my neighbor, and her boys are now grown up. She and her family are wonderful people – one of her sons knows La Petite.
I remember a vindictive and vocal minister of a very small church getting too much attention for a terrible, narrow minded act of collecting and planning to burn the Muslim holy book, the Koran.
Wait: the last one just happened. Nine years ago we reacted to a tragedy by coming together.
Readers, let’s stay together.