Friday, September 11, 2009
my annual peace message
I can still remember the color of the sky that morning: a blue so clear and vibrant, with an occasional fluffy cloud that added serenity to the sunshine rather than dullness. I remember sitting in the reading chair next to the window in my second-floor New England apartment, a house that was over 100 years old and just five miles from the water and sand. I was up uncharacteristically early, reading a set of papers from my class, and I was excited.
More than excited. I was full of hope.
I was still new to teaching, full of ideals and energy and promise. Full of love. Full of hope. I loved my work, loved my studies, loved my little New England apartment and the nearby sand and sea.
And then I turned on the television. It was about 10:00.
Of course, what followed is what so many of you can relate to: first confusion, then shock, then horror, then morbid fear, then profound grief. I had spent most of the day desperately trying to get a hold of my family on Long Island, making sure my brother wasn't working in the city that day, and my cousins (volunteer firefighters and rescue workers) were safe. I wasn't able to reach my mother until 10:30 that night.
I also spent the day preparing myself for the news that my best friend -- the one with whom I used to stay up until 2 in the morning watching Duran Duran videos, and with whom I'd make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, the one with whom I'd dream about escaping my unpopular life and my house recently torn apart by marital separation -- was dead. She and her husband worked in the Merrill Lynch building next door to the towers (I thought she had worked in one of the towers. But still. The ML building was destroyed.) How could anyone survive, I had thought.
Her email came around 6:30 that evening: "We're ok" was the subject heading.
I burst into tears, exhaling for the first time all day, grieving for those who wouldn't get such an email.
Everyone has a vivid memory of where they were, what happened, how they felt, and everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone. One of my dear friends in Massachusetts lost her best friend, who was on one of the planes that flew out of Logan. Another friend is from Shanksville, PA, and lived very near the crash site. Everyone sat still that day, mouths open, eyes watered, and watched.
All in that bright blue sky, in the stillness of the morning.
I want this day to be a National Day of Peace. I want it to be a day of Remembrance, but I want to remember strangers who hugged each other on the street, men and women who helped each other out of buildings, who gave them a safe place to go. I want to remember the outpouring of love and support, donations of bottled water and candy bars. I want to remember the concert for the victims' families, when music made the world come together once again. I want to remember the Yankees and Mets coming out onto the field in NYPD and PAFD caps. I want to remember a young boy who said it would take a truly civilized society to respond to this in peaceful ways rather than with violence.
I want this to be a day when we close stores and schools, stop work, turn off the screens, and go to the people and places we love most. I want this to be a day when we put down our arms and realize that peace is possible. That violence doesn't have to be the answer to violence. That we have more similarities than differences.
All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance.
To my readers,
Peace be with you.