Like most millennials, I destroyed the napkin industry, Applebees, and I remember 9/11 in detail. For me, I was in college, sleeping off an all nighter…of drinking, I’m sure. My uncle called me and told me to turn on the TV. I was so confused, hungover, and I turned on the TV to watch the second plane fly into the World Trade Center. My Mom and I agree 9/11 was for me like the JFK assassination was for her. My Anthropology class was the only class not canceled, and we all sat around in a stunned/confused quiet. Our professor explained some of the Muslim culture and his words have always guided me with terrorism or any other “religious” violence. He basically said the people who did this are not Muslims. They perverted the Qur’an to justify violence. He likened them to Christians who shoot abortion doctors, or the Crusades. I’m not sure why, but it made me feel better that day.
For as long as I can remember, I could not understand violence in the name of God. I think my dad had said to me once, “who you give your money and time to is your god” or something like that. I realize God is many things to many people. For addicts, a drug can be a god. For terrorists, killing people in the name of God is their god. Hatred is their god. My anthropology teacher and my dad (and Batman) helped me realize that some people just want to watch the world burn. You just can’t prevent that kind of hatred. You can only choose to be what you want the world to be.
The images of people walking around like zombies covered in dust, and even worse, the people jumping out of the towers still haunt me when I think about it. Yet, I also am overwhelmed by the power of love versus the power of hate. The plane that crashed in PA was full of heroes who decided to sacrifice their lives to save complete and utter strangers. The teams of people who helped rescue those trapped, the firefighters who gave their lives, and on and on. I remember reading the rescue dogs were getting depressed from being unable to find survivors so the teams would play dead to have the dogs “rescue” them to help them cheer up. I still tear up every time I think about it.
Looking back, 9/11 helped develop my “silver lining” perspective. Yes, it was horrible, but watching the good of people began to drown out the evil. I’m not sure when I heard Fred Rogers say, “…look for the helpers” but that is how I try to view all the madness. The Libertarian in me could rant for days about the PATRIOT and FREEDOM acts, but I don’t want to make a soapbox out of blood. For me, today is always about remembering to appreciate everything. For ~3,000 people, it was just another ____ day. For their thousands of families and loved ones, it was just another ____ day. Then, their worlds were turned upside down.
For awhile, I did feel afraid. A lingering paranoia of “what if…?” In some ways, I can understand people who hold that fear – some of which got our Great Cheeto elected. In a lot of ways, I find it dumb. With no disrespect intended to those who are afraid, I accepted I am going to die when it’s time for me to die. I cannot and will not waste my life in fear of dying. I’ve heard people I know say things about being terrified of terrorists, looking at Muslims suspiciously, and so forth. If nothing else, that says to me the terrorists won – for those people.
I’m not going to remotely attempt to suggest I squeeze the life out of every precious moment. I spent 3 hours napping/drooling on myself today. Though I am millennial in age, I am a toddler at heart. I guess, if I am afraid of anything, it’s wasting my life as opposed to preventing untimely death. That’s what today reminds me of. I don’t waste chances to say, “I love you” or give my poopies extra kisses, I try to smile at or compliment people for no reason, and I genuinely try to remember to be thankful – no matter what. I can’t make perfect use out of everything, but I can be grateful for everything. It’s easy to forget everything you do have – especially in a culture predicated on telling us all how much we do not have. As we are all watching Hurricane Irma in Florida, the effects of Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath in TX, and now remembering 9/11 sixteen years ago, the only thing I can truly do is take a nice big, deep breath and say thank you. It’s easy to whine about the shit shows of our lives and our pain is all real, etc. At the end of the day, if we can suck air in our heads, we’re all on the right side of the ground today.
Tragedy has a way of binding people together and bringing our inherent mortality to the spotlight. I used to be convinced I was going to die in my 20s. Now that I am aging “gracefully” (whilst plucking chin hairs & rocking teenage acne on a monthly basis) in my 30’s, I suppose I’ll die whenever. Morbidly, I hope it’s some sort of really bizarre death. Like, the first person to die of Zumba or something. Tucan related incident, perhaps. Me being fucked in the head aside, I realized that no amount of -ing will prevent me from dying. I don’t know when I read the Dalai Lama quote, but it sums everything up for me:
On this day, and every day, I am deeply thankful for my babies, everyone I have in my life, and the countless blessings I have. I am sending love and prayers to all those affected by 9/11, and the hurricanes ravaging the south. I’m going to take the kiddies apple picking 🙂 (NOT because I’m a good mom, I’m just craving all things fall, sweet, and homemade)