The Glass Half Empty
Ten years ago I was a glass-half-full sort of person. 9/11 changed all that. I didn’t lose anyone myself, which allowed me to lose everyone, everything. Not having a specific person to remember lets me remember them all. Not knowing them lets me imagine that they were all my brothers and sisters, my parents, my spouse, my friends.
For a long time I dreamed of people jumping. With my fear of heights, that was the most terrible thing. I wouldn’t have jumped, I tell myself, I couldn’t have jumped. I would have called home, I couldn’t have called home, I would have tried to save myself, I would have tried to help others, I would have been powerless, I couldn’t have changed anything, I would have screamed, I wouldn’t have been brave. All these things I know, and yet, I know nothing. I wasn’t there, thank all the powers in the universe. But somehow I’m still there, and I know that I can never leave.
I’ve tried to keep the flame of love burning ever since. Tried not to think of burning. Tried to think about how life goes on. Yesterday at lunch the kitchen staff was speaking Arabic, the Somali woman in a peaceful blue hijab smiled at me. I wanted to feel the love, but the flames licked around the edges of my heart. Something in me is cold now, changed, and not for the better. Ten years should be long enough to forget a little, maybe even forgive a little, but I can’t manage it. It wasn’t my nightmare, but it still fills me with rage and trembling. Tolerance is hard won now, acceptance is so much harder to come by.
Hope does shine out of the darkness, but now I know fear. It shadows me on the brightest days, although I hate to admit it. I fear tomorrow, the tenth anniversary, still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Psychologists should have coined the Other Shoe syndrome, I think many of us suffer from it now. There’s still goodness in the world, of course, and compassion, and love. And there’s innocence, even though I feel that most of mine has been stolen, now that I know that there are people who will gladly die to kill people like me, innocent though I may be.
I see crazy shadows now, hear things that aren’t there, fear where no threat has been proven. All this, yet I wasn’t even there, not even anywhere close. All this, yet I lost no one. All this, because I lost faith, trust, in human kindness, in peaceful solutions, in negotiation and compromise, in underlying goodness, in the thread of humanity that I thought ran through us all.
Last night Shel took this picture of the moon, and although I know it’s the same moon that shines over Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and every other part of the world where terror reigns, I try to let it fill me with peace.
I no longer believe that there will be peace in our time, nor that we can save the world from itself, nor do I even really try. In the end, that’s what I lost on 9/11: I lost the vision of peace, and without that, full moon or no, the world often seems a very dark place. Still, somehow, I keep on looking for the light, and if it exists somewhere, I hope to find all of you there.French Letters Visits America
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