What do I remember about September 11, 2001?
I remember coming downstairs and making coffee and toast, then turning on the news as usual. I thought it was odd that Peter Jennings was on in the morning. Then I watched in horror as the second tower was hit. And again as they started to fall.
I remember conversations with people on the bus into town, people I saw every day but had never spoken to before then.
I remember the sudden fear when I learned about the Pentagon and the three hours of worry until I found out that my friend who worked there was okay.
I remember recording a special message on my company’s inbound message, saying that ‘due to the national tragedy, we are closed for business today.’ It seemed odd to go home in the middle of the day, but no one could work. And since we were in a high rise, it was being recommended that the building be empty anyway.
I remember the eerie stillness walking around the neighborhood where I lived. We were in the flight path of SeaTac airport. Since all flights were grounded that day, the streets were disturbingly quiet.
At the time, I was the music director for a show in the Seattle area, a review of Richard Rodgers songs. Of course, the song ‘Manhattan’ was on the list. We met, the cast and production staff, to discuss whether we should remove the song from the show, leave it in and change nothing, or write a short intro to the song mentioning the tragedy and do the song.
We decided on the last choice because we all thought in unconscionable to ignore what had happened. It would undoubtedly be on everyone’s mind and it just seemed wrong to gloss over it.
It was a hard night for all of us, but mostly for the actor who introduced the song and then the two who performed it. There wasn’t a dry eye on stage, backstage or in the house. The song is a happy one, but now it was burnished, darkened by the horrible things that had transpired. It was hard to sing about love and frivolity in that place that had so recently been visited by such tragedy.
But it was a reminder, too, that we all must go on. We must move forward and celebrate the life we have, to find beauty and love in the world.
I still have a hard time listening to ‘Manhattan’ without tearing up.
With the perspective of time, I am saddened now by the actions of the politicians who, ‘in the country’s best interest’, acted in haste and with emotion, rather than with careful thought. Many congresspeople who voted against the Patriot Act received death threats for voting their conscience.
Another tragedy of 9/11/2001 is that it exposed the sickening underbelly of our political system. For many, including myself, that day ultimately turned the word ‘patriot’ into a dirty word. And ‘Homeland Security’ has turned out to be just another den of spies with their eyes and ears turned inward towards its own citizens.
Efforts to try and bring together people of all faiths and to try and heal the great gash in that New York Island have been met with hostility at worst and disdain at the least. And fearmongers have used that day to divide my country’s citizenry even further than they already were.
I find myself appalled that a person I call a friend now received death threats on that very morning and lost many friends, just because of her religion. I didn’t know her then, but I am happy to know her now. She is a wise lady and has taught me much about faith and joy in the face of so much hate.
It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. There are some good things that are gaining ground. In 2001, I would not have been able to marry the woman I now call my legal wife. There are still many vocal opponents to that, but their voices are being drowned out.
Being who I am, with my rose-colored glasses, I have to believe that the world will be a better place as we look to the future. It is hard some days. There are daily reminders of the struggle to make it better for everyone.
If we believe, if we have faith, we can move forward. We can have a brighter future.Can’t we?