What’s Hardest for Me and Others About Living With 9/11

Posted on September 10, 2011


We have always had to fight against large overwhelming odds.

Most of us think in terms of life before and after 9/11.  You don’t have to live in the United States or the countries of its allies that have been the victims of terrorist attack to feel as if the floor has been snapped right out beneath you.

My mother was in a nursing  home at the time of the attack.  Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, it was not always possible to tell how much she took in and remembered.  I did not want her to end her life shocked by how the world in which she had grown up had been brutalized.  The destruction of civilization as we know it was on the menu that day.

After the attack, we were in shock but when that began to wear off, so many of us realized that we had to learn to live with the fear of future attacks.  It seemed that life in the past when people often lived with fear, that those fears could not have had the enormity of the fears generated by 9/11.

I assume that people began to slowly think about the reconstitution of their lives and to try to live without fear.  Even President Bush had ideas on what would bring us back to normalcy.  He proposed retail therapy.  He said to get on with a normal life and to get out an buy something in support of native industries.  It would raise your spirits.

I could not afford his recipe for success.  But I did begin to think about living with fear through the ages.  I thought it must be in our DNA to adjust to these things.

In the youthful days of the United States of America, wagon trains headed into the unknown wilderness to the west.  In the context of the size of that “world,” there were the unknown dangers from wildlife and the fear of attack by native people.  But these “pioneers” had goals in mind and their efforts to reach their new world goals sustained them.  Going back to the old country with penalizing laws and few opportunities was not an option most entertained.

Whenever I become overwhelmed by 9/11 and fears it generated in me,  I try to think back over the centuries in which our predecessors suffered much of what we do now and to reflect on  how they might have handled the uncertainties of their era.  It helped to  put the size of 9/11 in a “time converter” and arrive at a human-scale event.  The opposite end of the world – that under a microscope is not something we have always been able to control either but we have learned to live with that and in the hope someday we will.  That is our goal.

We have recently had theories about the vastness of the universe and stars and planets similar to our own multiply annually.  Incredible dangers lurk here but we have goals that sustain us.

The atomic bomb, the hits on the twin towers – these events unleashed the fear that these kinds  of methods would proliferate.  So what, then, should our our goals be to end the spread of these methods?  Discussion, education and elimination of nuclear stock piles.  There are ways of either controlling or eliminating these factors.

We can either be like deer in the headlights after 9/11 or we can take it as a new beginning in a move toward more positive goals both personally and as a nation.  As Peter Pan said to Wendy when he was teaching her to fly, “think lovely, beautiful thoughts and up you’ll go.”  Well, I guess you could say we will always have Never Land if  if all else fails.  The mind will retreat to find solace and renewal in the literature of or in the inventive thoughts of escape!

NOTE:  The late Mary Martin in the televised version of the original musical production of Peter Pan.

If a villain has a sense of humor, it makes life easier!

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