Sunday, September 11, 2011


I know "selfishness" seems like an odd title for a post on 9/11.  9/11 is a day we remember so much selflessness. Heroes, who not only saved so many, many of which gave the ultimate sacrifice. Heroes who are heroes every day. They selflessly signed up for a job, knowing they could one day give the ultimate gift with that job. Heroes who were born out of necessity. People who, when they thought about if they could ever do that, may have thought they couldn't. Yet, when the time came, they didn't hesitate. Heroes on that day, as well as the heroes who have fought the war since. Heroes who lived but have the memory of that day forever in their mind. Heroes who gave their lives. Families who are now the heroes picking up the pieces left behind. None of this sounds selfish.

Even the average person just wanted to be selfless. They felt helpless, they wanted to do anything they could to help, to make it all better. They donated blood, they donated money, they prayed.  They were glued to the news, hoping for any little miracle.  Even if they didn't know a single person in those areas, they still wanted to help.  It really shows that the good people in this world far outnumber the bad.

There is another side to that time glued to the news though. They wanted reassurance that things would be OK. That they would be OK. Their family would be OK. Those that lived in the Northeast were desperate to hear or see any sign that the people in their family, or their friends, were OK. Those that lived nowhere near the NE, those that had no ties to the NE, wanted to know it wouldn't happen near them.  This was so huge, noone knew if this was just the beginning or if this was it. They were selfishly thinking of themselves. 

I wonder how many people were like that on that day, selfish first.  Proving we are all just human.  I say this because my story of that day isn't the sorrow of someone who was there. It isn't the sorrow of someone who knew anyone who died. It is a story of selfishness.

That morning I do not remember. I do remember when I heard of what was going on. I was with my 1 year old at a consignment sale. I wondered why so many had radios on the news. Soon the sale was abuzz with people talking. I started to worry about what was going on. The radio stations seemed to all be analyzing it, noone was repeating what had happened. I couldn't be sure of what had happened. It sounded like a plane had hit a building. That sounded sad, I pray for the family, but why the big commotion? Cessna's and Piper's crashed into buildings regularly. I assumed it was just another case of this. The commotion had me worried though, so I quickly finished and left.

In the car on the way home the radio finally said what had happened. A terrorist attack? What was going on? There was so much fear. I called my husband, I knew he was right on the other side of town, but I had to hear his voice. My 5 year old was at school. She had only been at school, her 1st experience away from me all day, for a month.  What was the school doing about this? It's a building with 600 kids in it. Was it safer if everyone, everywhere was at home? No big congregation of people. Would they close all the schools? I drove past the school on the way home, it looked normal. 

It was only when I got home and actually saw the video of the plane crashing into the building, that I understood how bad it really was.  I remember repeatedly seeing the planes crash as the news replayed it.  Then they started showing the people jumping from it. Was it really that bad inside? Did they think they wouldn't be saved? So many people were jumping, I couldn't watch that. I couldn't scare my 1 year old. Yet, I couldn't turn it off, I was desperate for good news.  I had to do something else. I left the TV on but we moved to the kitchen to do the dishes. 

Then there was commotion. I could hear something going on, something had changed. I went back to the TV. The 1st tower had collapsed. It all became a blur from there. I watched in disbelief. The 2nd tower collapsed. News of the plane crash at the Pentagon. News of the plane crash in that Pennsylvania field. What was going on? I just wanted to know my family was safe.  Yes, people had died. The biggest building I had ever seen was probably half that size. The biggest building I had ever been in was probably a quarter that size. I couldn't even begin to guess how many people were in there. I couldn't begin to understand the magnitude of what was happening. 1 life lost in a small plane crash into a building, is too many, is so sad, all the family left to mourn. But this? I couldn't fathom it.

So I didn't, I just wanted my family. I concentrated on me, on us. I wanted my daughter safe in my arms. I didn't want to scare her by taking her out of school early, for no reason. What if everyone else was feeling the same way, picking up their kids? It was already past her lunchtime so I couldn't, inconspicuously, just stop in to see her.  I didn't want her to be the only kid left at school, not picked up early. I do not remember how many times I actually drove past her school after that. I was beginning to think the police would be called on my suspicious vehicle stalking the school. I went up very early to wait for her to be dismissed. Other parents were there too.  Everyone was talking, everyone was confused, many were crying.  I know I talked to my parents that day. I am not sure how many times I talked to my husband that day. My daughter was aware something was going on. The school couldn't keep it from the kids, even the Kindergartners.  They could sense the tension in the school. Of course, the Kindergartners were told only the basics. Some bad men had flown airplanes into tall buildings in New York. How else do you explain something like that to a 5 year old? How do you not scare them? Especially when you, yourself, are scared. I tried to maintain a normal afternoon and evening. We kept their routine the same. 

It was after the kids were in bed that we could sit and watch. Again selfish thoughts came to mind. I thanked God that my family was safe.  For days and days and days this consumed life. There were occasional miracles. There were stories of heroism. For the most part though, we sat and watched people on TV begging to find their own loved ones.  If they could just be missing we could find them, they wouldn't, they couldn't, be dead. At the same time we watched the death toll go up and up and up. It climbed to inconceivable levels.

How do you even pray for that many individuals? Because that's what they were, individuals. Not a #, they each had a name, they each had a face, they each had a family left behind. If we could say a single name, every second it would still take hours to pray for every single one. Yet that's what so many were doing. The only thing they could do, pray. They prayed alone. They prayed with family. All over, churches held community services. We all just prayed. 

In the face of tragedy our country pulled together, as they always do.  They helped each other, they prayed for each other, and they will never forget.  I wonder about why it is replayed every year.  Is it the selfishness of TV stations, longing for the ratings?  Or is it people, again feeling helpless, not knowing what else they can do, but desperate to do something, anything, for their fellow Americans.  Desperate to make sure that not a single individual is ever forgotten.

10 years later I am still selfish. I am just so very thankful that my family is OK.  After that I still feel helpless, what can I do? I can't do much more today than I could then. But I can pray, I have prayed, and I will pray. I can pray for those lost, those left, and world leaders. I can pray for peace, world peace, peace for the families left behind, peace for the souls lost.  And that is, something, something that can make more difference than we know.

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