On this day, it’s hard to know what to write. I thought about it all morning on my drive to work, and I have so much running through my head that I don’t know where to start — or where to end up.
Six Seven Nine years ago I was a Special Education teacher in a middle school in Baltimore. I didn’t see a whole lot of what was going on in “real time,” because I was mostly trying to calm scared kids. At the same time, I was worried about my parents and brother who live only a few miles from the Pentagon, and my other brother who worked only a few miles from the Pentagon. Only later did I find out that my uncle and his wife were in New York City, and that he was getting ready to go pick up his photos from the camera shop in the first floor of the World Trade Center. (He had not yet left to pick up the pictures when the first plane hit, so thank God he was safe. Someone found the pictures many months later and tracked him down in Arizona to return them to him!)
So mostly what I remember from that day is the anxiety, worry, and effort to reassure the kids that they were safe with us at school. (Which became harder as more and more parents came and took their kids out of school. The ones left behind got, understandably, a little paranoid as they day wore on.)
And then when I went home, my partner and I watched the news and just couldn’t even process what was going on. It was a strange place to be, geographically, because we were so close to DC, and pretty close to Pennsylvania and New York, too. So there was this fear hanging over us: will we be next? (Which is, of course, the whole idea behind terrorism.)
Six Seven Nine years later, I’ve had many cases of the “six degrees of separation” syndrome. I have met people who had a son in the Towers who barely escaped, people who had a meeting at the Pentagon that they missed, and a dear friend of a dear friend who’s husband was killed at the Pentagon — days before his wife was due to have their baby. At the same time, many other friends who work in DC looked out their windows and saw the smoke rising across the river at the Pentagon.
And my cousin was sitting on a bench on the National Mall, trying to absorb what was going on (there was nowhere to go, anyway, as the city was basically shut down), and a reporter from the New York Times stopped to interview him.
Six Seven Nine years later, and we live under more security and regulation than ever before. And I don’t feel any safer today than I did on that day in the classroom with those scared kids. We are occupying and fighting in a country that has become a breeding ground for the very type of people who attacked us on September 11 — but it is very important to remember that when we entered Iraq, the actual people who attacked us had no connection there. Al Qaida has since moved in to take advantage of the power vacuum we created when we ousted Saddam Hussein. So, since September 11, we attacked a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, and created haven for the terrorists who did attack us.
So I will pray for peace today. And I will pray for all the 3,000 people who died in this country on September 11, 2001. And I will pray for the people of Iraq, where 3,000 people are killed every three months. And I will pray for our military service men and women, 3,771 3,774, 4,155, 4,418 of whom have died since we invaded Iraq.
I will pray for peace today.