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.

6 comments:

Elspeth Antonelli said...

SInce I live on the west coast, we woke up to the horror. I remember a voice on the radio saying "New York is in flames". I rushed to the TV and, needless to say, spent the rest of the day watching the footage. Our airport was soon clogged with incoming planes, not only the scheduled flights but all the flights that should have landed at American airports but now had been diverted out of American airspace.

Luckily, I had no one I knew in any of the locations, nor did I have anyone flying that day. But it did make one think of the fragility of the world and how violence is not, any more, something that happens "over there".

I had just held auditions for an upcoming production and one of the actors phoned wondering if he had been cast. I remember saying to him "Who knows what's happening right now? Everything could be about to change.

The Manhattan skyline still looks empty to me. I amazed how I look for those towers in shots of TV shows or movies - there's always a strange moment when you can see them in old shows.

Fear, mistrust, and terror have been a part of human history since the beginning. Surely in this age of instant news and global communication these scourges can be cleansed. Education is the magic key. Everyone is the same on one level.

I add my small voice to yours, Elisa. Give peace a chance.

Elspeth

Elisa said...

Thanks for that wonderful comment, which could be a post in and of itself. I know what you mean about the hole in the skyline. "Twin" towers had special meaning for me.

It was both comforting and sad to see them when I watched Sports Night a few months ago -- a time when we were not so scared, not so angry, and perhaps even not so bright.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I agree, we need a day to celebrate peace. Peace is sorely lacking in the world of late, (or, maybe mankind's never had it, ever.)

My husband was at The World Trade Center on September 10th. He flew home to Los Angeles and arrived at 2:30 in the morning when the kid were asleep. We woke up when my daughter came crashing through our bedroom door, she had just seen the plane fly into the Trade Center on TV. and didn't know for sure that her Daddy was home. I'll never forget that morning. None of us should.

Elisa said...

Elizabeth, thanks so much for sharing your memory.

Peace be with you!

Therese Travis said...

a day of peace and a day of forgiveness. Do you think we can start this grassroots? This country surely needs it.

God bless.

Elisa said...

One person at a time, Therese.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Peace and blessings to you!