Early in the morning, 10 years ago, I dozed listening to NPR and heard something about a plane flying into a building in New York. Imagining a terrible accident, I rose, turning on CNN. I’m unaware of how much time passed before the second plane flew into the towers. At that point I knew this was deliberate; and horrible beyond imagination. The office manager of a church, I made my way there and we opened our chapel for prayers (it’s an inner city parish; unmonitored open doors are generally a recipe for trouble). A predominately progressive church, but with a diversity of political views, I heard angry diatribes about Bush’s destructive policies, to raging demands of blasting all Arabs to dust. My personal reaction was more complex, more focused on compassion; solidly progressive. Anyway, ten-years out, I’m trying to ascertain how this changed me.
Clearly the world changed. But I wasn’t at ground zero. Nor did I lose friends or family. My personal, direct impact was small. Yet, something(s) changed. For many, the change was a sudden awareness of the burning hatred so much of the world carries for the US. Having read such works as Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States, I was well aware of my country’s list of offenses. So the venom directed at the US was hardly news. So that’s not it.
Air travel security seems an obvious change for us all. However, I haven’t traveled by air much since. Thus the impact on me; very minimal. I’m hard pressed to find anything else obvious. Perhaps it’s not so clear. So much has changed in ten years. How do I separate out 9/11 vs. the other changes of my life? Perhaps I need to look deeper than these minute details.
I have become more committed to my values. Embarking more deeply Christ’s commandments towards compassion. I see their value at deeper level than before. I am more committed to redemption, to eradicating fear from my life, and to layering peace throughout my life. I also try to think bigger picture. Such things as remembering the less dramatic heroes. Like the Canadian families who took in our displaced citizens when we shut down our airspace. Important acts of kindness during moments of horror. Hold those examples up.
My world is dramatically different now. Separating out the effects of the terrorist attacks is futile. Yet 9/11 influences me deeply; a small, tight thread woven throughout my life. My life, my being is the gestalt. These subdivisions merely academic and, ultimately, empty. Perhaps that’s the most fitting lesson to me of all.